Center for Education in Mass Violence and Suicide


To understand the root causes, to educate and empower the public, to train support staff, and to provide resources to the community.


In addition to our mission, Dr. Pescara-Kovach would like to provide the following sentiments in regard to threat assessment.  Threat assessment is identified as best practice in targeted violence prevention by The United States Secret Service based upon decades of research. 

What Is the Role of a Threat Assessment Team?

The process involved in threat assessment is created to:

  • Identify students who pose a concern.  This information should be encouraged to be reported by ALL:  students, parents, faculty, staff, and community members (see below).  For this reason, teams are not secretive but rather are recognized as central to the health and safety of the district. 
    • There should be a centralized, formal reporting system whether it be a text to report app, online/web-based reporting system, text-a-tip line, or dedicated e-mail.  The reporting medium should be monitored 24/7.  Teams preserve the anonymity of those reporting.
  • Gather information about the individual from interviews of key people such as coaches, dean of students, teachers, teammates or others who have contact with the individual as well as school records and social media.  
  • Assess the situation and the information to determine if the individual poses a risk to self or others
  • Threat assessment is followed by a case management plan aimed at assisting the individual who poses the risk and preventing further behaviors of concern, mental health crises, and acts of violence.
Can a District Share Educational Records with Others in the District?
There is an exception to FERPA's general consent requirement in addition to the legal right to search a student's belongings under specific circumstances.  Let's start with the general consent requirement: FERPA has a health and safety emergency provision that allows disclosure of student's educational records (including disciplinary) to appropriate parties when it is necessary to disclose the information to protect the health or safety of the student or others.  
Only those records relative to the health or safety emergency can be shared, and they can ONLY be shared with an individual who, by having the knowledge, can take action to protect the individuals at risk (i.e., students and staff).  Those often included in a district's information sharing are a local law enforcement officer, a school resource officer, or medical personnel.  The provision only allows such individuals the knowledge, and the information can only be shared for the duration of the potential health or safety emergency.  
It can get tricky because the individual often has to pose a direct threat.  According to CFR 35.139, "(b) In determining whether an individual poses a direct threat (i.e., significant, articulable threat) to the health or safety of others, a public entity must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence, to ascertain: the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; the probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures or the provision of auxiliary aids or services will mitigate the risk." (Retrieved from
ALL districts and college campuses should have a threat assessment team.  We have known about the need for threat assessment teams for several years.  It's time all districts step up and ensure they use a team approach toward assessing the likelihood an individual poses a threat.  I am involved with InterACTT and I personally and professionally have trained numerous districts.  It's time this approach is mandated.  An understanding of the law and behaviors of concern are necessary toward preventing senseless tragedies.  These incidents do not have to happen.  If you have any questions on threat assessment or related issues, please feel free to contact Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach at or 419-530-2048.
Last Updated: 6/27/22