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Threat Assessment Team Development

Schools and school districts are increasingly interested in learning about strategies to maintain a safe learning environment. School safety experts have recommended a number of diverse strategies to improve school safety, many of which have been implemented in schools: implementation of zero tolerance policies, achievement of target hardening through improved building design, improved building security through restricted access, the use of regular lock-down drills, improvements in emergency communication capabilities, increased use of video surveillance, close collaboration with law enforcement and the installation of intruder alert systems. The statistical probability of violence in any particular school is remarkably low. However, community stakeholders, teachers, administrators, parents and students remain quite concerned regarding the risk of violence in the school setting.

Two strategies to reduce the incidence of violence in the school setting have been found to be generally ineffective and have fallen out of favor: the use of zero tolerance policies and the practice of perpetrator profiling. Neither of these approaches enjoys much support in the professional literature regarding strategies to enhance school safety and have been largely discontinued by many school districts.

One of the most widely-recommended strategies to prevent violence in the school setting is the implementation of a threat assessment team. Threat assessment teams are commonly used in law enforcement as well as the business world as a means to prevent workplace violence and such teams are now being used in the school setting. The approach was originally developed by the U.S. Secret Service based upon studies of persons who attacked or threatened to attack public officials. Goals of threat assessment are twofold: violence prevention through taking prompt action when warning signs of a risk for violence are noted and, secondly, the provision of training and development of peaceful dispute resolution procedures within the school to reduce the incidence of threatening behavior. Many of the strategies employed in threat assessment procedures can also be applied to instances where suicide risk is of concern—in both circumstances the school relies upon a small internal team of trained personnel who utilize procedures and guidelines in a systematic way to assess and manage the threatening circumstance. In practice, schools often are re-tooling and enhancing their existing crisis teams to include threat assessment duties. So long as proper team composition is achieved and necessary training provided, the use of a crisis team for threat assessment functions is a useful and efficient means of developing this capability.

A gradually emerging standard of care is developing regarding threat assessment practice. There is increasing consensus in the professional literature regarding appropriate goals, guidelines and policies/procedures to guide school-based threat assessment practice. In fact, there appears to be a parallel between the practice of post-traumatic consultation—which has become quite commonly practice by internal school based social service personnel—and the more recent development of threat assessment procedures in the school setting. There was a time when schools relied upon external professionals to counsel students and faculty in the aftermath of trauma. Now, however, this service is increasingly viewed as a standard part of school based social service practice. In a similar fashion, schools are moving to bring their threat assessment services in-house, developing their own internal capabilities to systematically assess and manage threatening situations, in a manner consistent with emerging standards of care, rather than relying upon external, community-based providers. External specialists are utilized only in more emergent or higher-risk circumstances, or as consultants.

In order for a school or school district to develop their own threat assessment capabilities it is necessary to acquire the necessary training. Dr. John Jochem is well-known to many schools and school districts in Lake County, both as a trainer and as a clinical consultant. He has provided clinical threat assessment evaluation services to business, corporations, schools and school districts for over twenty five years. He developed Lake County’s only formal school fitness evaluation program and consults to schools on a regular basis regarding threat assessment practice. He is uniquely suited and qualified to provide the training necessary for schools to develop their own internal threat assessment capabilities.

Threat assessment training is available through Hawthorn Counseling Group to schools, geared to achieve the following training goals:

  • Provision of an informal audit to assess a school’s current threat management capabilities.

  • Provision of staff training in the clinical assessment of violence risk

  • Development of guidelines and protocols to be used in the management of threatening circumstances

  • Recruitment, development and training of an internal multidisciplinary threat assessment team

  • Ongoing programmatic and clinical consultation to the school’s threat assessment team

  • Assistance in developing links to appropriate community providers

Schools and school districts can be confident that the threat assessment training and consultation provided by Dr. Jochem is consistent with current professional standards as well as informed by his twenty-five years experience in threat assessment consultation.

Staff Training for School Personnel

Dr. John Jochem has conducted dozens of professional training events for school personnel regarding a variety of mental health topics. He is available to provide assistance for staff inservices, workshops and faculty institute events. Among the issues and topics he regularly addresses in school-based professional training are the following:

  • Development of post-traumatic intervention teams

  • The clinical provision of post-traumatic sevices to students and faculty

  • Clinical suicide assessment and mental status examination and mental status examination training for school-based clinicians

  • School-based suicide prevention strategies

  • Recovering from the aftermath of student suicide

  • Depression awareness for faculty members

  • Burnout prevention and management of compassion fatigue for educators

  • Management of student self-injury in the school setting

  • Adolescent development

Post-Traumatic Consultation in the School Setting

Dr. Jochem established Lake County’s first crisis response team in 1991. The team provided post-traumatic consultation and training to schools, school districts, businesses and other organizations and was active in helping schools develop their own internal post-traumatic recovery capabilities. He has conducted training in post-traumatic recovery services for schools and other organizations on a local, regional and national basis. Feel free to contact Dr. Jochem should a traumatic event occur in your school or school district which can benefit from expert, external consultation.

Should you wish to learn more about the school consultation services available through Hawthorn Counseling Group please contact Dr. John Jochem at jdjochem@gmail.com or call him at (847) 680-0755.

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