THE MAGAZINE

Hard Lessons

By Laura Spadanuta

There are numerous ways a case can be opened, including reports from an individual on campus. When a case is reported, the team must examine the risks and the behavior in the context of whatever the individual is going through. The team will talk to the individual directly to assess and address any problems. The team also gathers information from various resources. One of the first orders of business is to determine whether the person is already being helped by other counseling or campus services. If that help is deemed to be adequate or the team determines that the person poses no threat, the case is closed.

Cornell points out that revisions to Virginia law and clarifications by the DOE have been made to facilitate information sharing with law enforcement and other groups, such as those in the medical professions. For example, a DOE clarification of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) states that school officials are not prohibited from sharing information obtained through school officials’ observation and personal knowledge, such as threatening remarks.

That is not considered part of student educational records, which makes it easier for the information to be shared.

The threat assessment team is separate from the CARE Team, which is a student aid team that was in existence prior to the 2007 shootings. The CARE Team will focus on student assistance issues, but some cases may go back and forth between CARE and threat assessment. For example, a financial-aid issue might start with CARE and then go to threat assessment if the student’s behavior becomes inflammatory. But both teams will not be working on the same case at once.

The threat assessment team is charged with identifying dangerous behaviors not just from students or faculty members but anyone who might pose a danger.

The threat assessment team mostly acts after concerns are reported, but Virginia Tech also introduced a proactive threat assessment element to the admissions process. During admissions, various background questions are asked in the application, and behavior is assessed during interaction with admissions officers.

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