Good Question: How do districts respond to school threats?

November 05, 2018 07:36 AM

As soon as a threat is made on social media or elsewhere, what protocol do school districts follow?

Pat Taney was asked by a viewer to look into this for this week's Good Question report.


The rise of social media has caused a rise in something else... school threats.

"I think the reports are on the increase for sure," Superintendent of the Chuchville-Chili School District Lori Orologio said. 

News10NBC went behind the scenes to see what happens when a threat is reported.

Churchville-Chili has no active threats but as soon one is reported, no matter the hour, leaders gather as a team. It's called the Threat Assessment Team.

It's made up of administrators, school security, and mental health professionals. It's their job to investigate the threat and determine whether it is credible.

The team follows a flowchart in their threat assessment procedure plan. The investigation is thorough.

"It takes a minimum of a few hours and if we involve law enforcement, even longer," Orologio said.

Their goal is to find as many people as possible with information about the threat.

"We're working hard, acquiring information from those that might have first-hand knowledge of the threat," Director of School Safety William Sanborn said.

Timing is critical and major decisions have to be considered. Does the team close school if the treat is before opening bell? Do they keep kids locked in if they're already in class? It all really depends.

"What is the threat? What are the specifics of the threat?," Orologio said.

Luckily, in that first investigative step, most threats are deemed not credible. If a threat can't be ruled out, law enforcement can step in.

"We will take every precaution there is," Orologio said. "We will go to a holding place, a lockout, a lockdown if that's what we need to do."

Parents and students will be notified but keep in mind, updates may be limited.

"If we go into lockdown, like at this moment, I am not going to send out a message saying we're in lockdown because, at that point, I don't know all the details of this threat," Orologio said. "So it will always be a partially delayed response."

But you can be sure, a ton of work is happening behind the scenes to keep your kids safe.

"Immediately things are set in motion," Sanborn said.

Potential victims are identified and given protection. The victim's family is also immediately notified.

Once the suspect, or person who made the threat, is identified, law enforcement gets involved. That person can face criminal charges, but many school districts also offer something else: mental health consultations.

"That's to see what that individual is dealing with at the time and why they may be having thoughts or making threats against others," Sanborn said.

Districts also do follow up work after a legitimate threat. They establish a written plan and follow up with the student or students involved.

Again, the vast majority of threats these days are false alarms. That's why districts like Churchville-Chili are trying to educate students early on.

"There has been a strong effort to educate the students on the proper use of social media so they know things that can, in fact, be interpreted as threatening," Sanborn said. "Through that education and showing proper use of social media, it has helped alleviate those potential threats."

District officials are hopeful that education is working. Those false threats waste a lot of time, not to mention risk cutting into instruction time.

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Pat Taney

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