Threat assessment processes approved

When it comes to threats made toward a school or a student, all Verona Area School District sites now have a threat assessment protocol.

That protocol is intended to determine whether there’s imminent danger or a threat is actually someone blowing off steam.

The school board approved threat assessment protocol guidelines and policies at its meeting Monday night with little discussion. The threat assessment protocol had been introduced in September and was created in partnership with the cities of Verona and Fitchburg police departments.

The threat assessment protocol is one of several security measures the district has introduced in the last year. It was partly prompted by the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, and an incident within VASD a few days later when a student threatened to “shoot up the school.”

The Parkland shooting also spurred the district to change its design for the high school to reduce the amount of glass throughout the building. Three fights at Verona Area High School in May of this year also prompted the district to revise the district’s visitor policies and make changes to high school security to create a limited open campus lunch.

The threat assessment protocol involves having staff use a screener to determine the severity of the threat and implement safety plans for both the targets of violence and the person threatening to perpetrate it.

It starts by gathering information, whether it’s from students, staff or parents in person, through social media or the district’s new tip line. If death or serious injury are considered immediately imminent, calling law enforcement is the first step, Corey Saffold, district school security coordinator, told the board in September.

Criteria for ranking the severity of the threat includes its potential impact, how it would be carried out, the viability it would happen, what prior threats had been made by the specific person and how that person has behaved.

The threat is then categorized as either a transient or a substantive threat. A transient threat is one that can be chalked up to anger or frustration that is easily resolved, while a substantial threat is one thought to have “serious intent” and have detailed plans and means.

That’s when law enforcement and district security are brought into the conversation, and staff then turn to MOSAIC, an online violence prediction tool that again ranks the severity of the threat.

From there, safety plans are implemented – one for the targeted person or people, and another for the person making the threats.

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Kimberly Wethal at