District adopts the widely used Salem-Keizer model that involves community professionals

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - School district will have many more people involved with student threat situation.

What happens when a local student threatens violence or acts violently?

Thanks to a new High Desert Education Service District Student Threat Assessment System, school district staff and community professionals are now armed with a plan that they can immediately put into action.

"The biggest change that you're going to see in this system is when there is a threat from a student in school, you're going to notice that there are a lot more people involved," said Crook County School District Human Resources Director Sean Corrigan.

CCSD has a contract with High Desert Education Service District to develop and adopt a new Student Threat Assessment System. HDESD had hired Misty Groom two years ago to be a Student Threat Assessment coordinator.

"What High Desert ESD wanted to know is if we were interested in adopting the Salem-Keizer model," Corrigan said. "The Salem-Keizer model of assessing student threats is based on the work of John Van Dreal, a nationally recognized student psychologist."

Van Dreal, the director of Safety and Risk Management Services for the Salem-Keizer School District, developed this model for his district. He authored the book "Assessing Student Threats: A Handbook for Implementing the Salem-Keizer System." About half of all school districts in Oregon have since adopted this system.

"It involves more people, it involves more resources, and there is actually some follow-up and some teeth in this system," Corrigan said.

Before becoming HR Director in January, Corrigan was the assistant principal at Mountain View High School in Bend, where he was involved with student threat assessments.

"One thing I recall is we would go through our Level 1, which was a school risk screen, where we would say, 'You know, this kid might be a violent risk to our building or the safety of our schools,'" Corrigan recalls.

He'd send off a request for a full risk assessment to Groom when she worked for Deschutes County Behavioral Health.

"She'd send back these amazing assessments, offering all these recommendations, all these ways to work with this kid," he said. "Eventually, that kid would come back to school, and there wouldn't be any teeth to enforce anything. There'd be no follow-up."

But the new system is different.

On Aug. 7, Groom trained 18 district staff members at the local district office on the new Student Threat Assessment System.

When a student shows an act of violence or an implied threat of violence, the school administrator, school resource officer, and counselor/school psychologist will determine whether or not there's a need for Level 1 Screening.

If so, the Level 1 Assessment School Site Team will be alerted. This team consists of administrators; counselors/school psychologists; the school resource officer; others who know the student involved, such as teachers, coaches, case managers and campus monitors; and parents, as circumstances allow.

"We have 18 folks that are all experts at Level 1 threat assessments," Corrigan said. "It's an extensive team at the school level that actually assesses the student and surveys everything we need to know about the student. Everybody brings in their best knowledge, best research, does a file review, and you find out everything about you can about these students."

If that team determines that student is still a threat, then they can refer him or her on to the Level II Team.

Corrigan said that PACE, the district's insurer, decided that the system was a good enough preventative device to keep schools safe that they'd sponsor a threat assessment training in Klamath Falls for all the Level II folks.

On Aug. 21-22, Van Dreal trained 10 Crook County professionals, including representatives from the local District Attorney's Office, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, Crook County Sheriff's Office, Prineville Police Department, Crook County Juvenile Department, CCSD Special Education Director Mona Boyd, and Groom from HDESD.

The Level II Team will create a plan or recommendation that could include increased supervision, intervention, placement, community resources or mental health evaluation.

"We've got an outstanding team that can handle students and families on a Level II assessment in order to come up with a plan to get these kids back in school, get them back with a plan for interventions and eventually with a system that is going to support them," Corrigan said.

The Level II Threat Assessment Team will meet every other week, allowing them to follow-up and make sure the team recommendations are being followed.

"It was great training," Boyd said of Van Dreal's session. "The community partners that I went with were incredibly enthusiastic about this. They want to be there to help kids, and it was an amazing experience. I think we can do some really good things with it."

Corrigan hopes the new system will make a big difference in the way threats are handled.

"We're excited about the fact that we've got a great group of leaders from the community on our Level II Assessment Team that are really excited about making this a great opportunity to make our schools safer and to really support these kids," he said. "As we know, most of these kids have been kind of left out, and we'll pull them in and get them the resources and support they need."

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