When a student makes a threat at school what do you do

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

When a Student Makes a Threat at School, What Do You Do?

When a student makes a threat within a school environment, it’s a critical moment that demands a swift, comprehensive, and nuanced response. As psychologists, it’s clear that such situations are complex and involve numerous factors, including the mental health of the student, the safety of the school community, and legal considerations. Here are key steps schools should take in response to a threat:

Immediate Action and Assessment

  1. Ensure Immediate Safety: The first priority is to ensure the safety of all students and staff. This may involve securing the area, notifying security personnel, and possibly even a temporary lockdown, depending on the nature and severity of the threat.
  2. Evaluate the Threat: It’s essential to quickly assess the credibility and specificity of the threat. This involves determining whether the student has the means, motive, and opportunity to carry out the threat. Professionals trained in threat assessment should be involved in this process.

Involving the Right Resources

  1. Mental Health Evaluation: A critical next step is to have the student evaluated by a mental health professional. This evaluation can help determine the underlying issues contributing to the threat, such as emotional distress, psychological disorders, or external pressures.
  2. Collaboration with Law Enforcement: In cases where the threat is deemed credible and specific, it’s crucial to involve law enforcement agencies. They can provide additional security, guidance, and ensure that any legal requirements are met.

Long-Term Strategies

  1. Supportive Intervention: Regardless of the immediate risk level, offering support and intervention to the student who made the threat is essential. This may include counseling, social support, academic accommodations, and, if necessary, a tailored reintegration plan into the school environment.
  2. Education and Prevention: Educating the school community about the signs of distress and the importance of speaking up about concerns can help prevent future threats. Schools should have clear policies and channels for reporting concerns.
  3. Fostering a Positive School Climate: A supportive and inclusive school climate can mitigate feelings of isolation or resentment that may lead to threats. Efforts should focus on building strong relationships among students, staff, and the wider community.

Dealing with a student threat requires a balanced approach that considers the immediate safety of the school community and the long-term well-being of the student involved. By employing a strategy that includes assessment, intervention, and prevention, schools can navigate these challenging situations effectively while supporting all students’ mental health and safety. If your school is faced with this issue, one of our licensed psychologists at D’Arienzo Psychology can help. Contact us today at 904-379-8094 or [email protected]

We have multiple psychologists with unique training and experience in threat assessment available to help you today:

Dr. Justin D’Arienzo

Dr. Amy Hartley

Dr. Erica Janson

Dr. Michael Nackashi

Dr. Ellen Williams

Fore more information regarding preventing school violence, check out the secret service website below.

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