The following are some thoughts on the topic of threats (not attacks) on school safety. Please take into account that these are just thoughts and you should consult with your Board of Education, administrative team, local law enforcement, local safety personnel, and others about how you should handle these situations.
There have been dozens of threats made on Illinois schools since the Parkland incident. Look for information soon from the Illinois Terrorism Task Force on official protocol on how schools should handle threats and the communication of these threats to the school community. Until that document is released, the following are some thoughts on threats.
To do once a threat is made:
- As soon as the administration learns of the threat they will have to make an assessment of not only the validity of the threat but also the severity of the threat. Whatever decision you make at this point you should act accordingly and follow your school safety plan. If you decide the threat is credible and serious you should immediately contact the local police department. Illinois State Police also tracks school threats based on reports from local police or schools.
- Commence investigation of the threat.
- Contact school board members as soon as you have credible information to communicate.
- Rely on the police to determine if the threat is credible or not.
- If you determine the students or non-students are involved with the threat, remember that students have due process and first amendment rights. Refer to the IASA communication to all superintendents on February 22, 2018, for further information on these topics.
- If you suspend student(s) from school for making the threat you may want to consult your special education administrator to determine if an evaluation needs to be completed on the student before the student would be allowed to return to school.
Communications Tips for School Threat
- It is important to share as much information as you can with parents, board members, staff and community members in as timely a manner as possible. In the absence of information from the school district, the information void likely will be filled by social media, possibly resulting in rumors and false information. Given the nature of social media, you should expect threats to circulate through the community quickly.
- The message should be shared with and vetted by local law enforcement to make sure nothing in the message impedes the investigation. The message would carry more weight if it is a joint message from the superintendent and law enforcement, if that is possible.
- The message should include such things as:
- The nature of the threat;
- The date/time included in the threat if one is specified (without this information, you take away a parent's choice whether to send their child to school on that particular day);
- The fact that law enforcement was immediately contacted and is investigating or has completed an investigation of the threat;
- The fact that the threat has been deemed not credible by law enforcement (if that has been determined);
- Whether school will be opened or closed (if it is to be closed, that should be the first thing mentioned in the message);
- The fact that additional security measures are being implemented out of an abundance of caution (things like additional law enforcement presence, reducing the number of entrances, security checks at the entrances); and
- Asking parents and community members to contact law enforcement if they have any information regarding the threat.
4. The message should be updated when the situation is resolved or as necessary based on
5. In dealing with media inquiries or any inquiries from the public, you should stick to what
included in the message to parents, only. The message must be consistent to be effective.