February 19th, 2019 – On professional development days, students get the day off from class while teachers and staff are hard at work. A recent professional development day was no different with teachers and staff continuing their education in several areas including differentiation, arts assessments, and social/emotional needs of the gifted.
One group in particular was focusing on threat assessment and intervention with a consultant, Jim Feger, leading the session. Feger works with School Threat Assessment Consultants LLC to provide threat assessment training and consultation for schools. He has also worked in clinical and school psychology for more than 25 years from residential, inpatient school-based, and regional supports.
The session centered around several exercises to equip every school team with a threat assessment practice and model that can be immediately implemented. Feger talked to staff about statistics on framing and prevention, and then walked staff through multiple case scenarios for incidences in schools.
Feger stresses the model involves a team approach with principals or assistant principals leading the process. Team members can also include counselors, school psychologists, teachers or other staff.
Once the threat is identified, Feger instructs staff to actively involve school resource officers, if needed, and ensure the safety of the student that’s being threatened and the student who’s doing the threatening.
Moving forward, Feger says the threat assessment model is one piece of school safety. “We want to have an environment that's inclusive and engage in a culture that says to students that it's okay to report things that you hear. We want kids to feel like it's the important thing to do and that it's not snitching, so it's really about protecting and safety messaging,” he noted on the types of environments schools should strive to attain.
Feger’s comments echoes the "StaySafe, Speak Up" student hotline website and phone system the district has in place to report concerns. Students and parents can securely use the website or phone system to report any concerns including abuse, bomb threats, cybercrimes, health concerns, and weapons.
Feger also maintains the district’s current efforts to promote Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) can go a long ways towards preventing threats. “It creates a culture of inclusion which by itself does a great job reducing the risk altogether of a kid feeling disenfranchised and taking violence as a next step,” Feger observed on the district’s use of PBIS.
HHCS superintendent Susan Gunnell thought the day’s professional development sessions nicely complimented what district staff are already doing. She added, “All staff members work hard every day to make sure our students are learning in a safe and supportive environment.”
The threat assessment and intervention module was made possible by a grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s office to deepen staff member’s knowledge in evidence-based violence prevention training. Another professional development day in the books gives teachers and staff more knowledge and resources to better serve HHCS students every day.