Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

A Place at the Table with the Threat Management and Crisis Response Teams

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

A Place at the Table with the Threat Management and Crisis Response Teams

Article excerpt

Since 2013, there have been 143 school shootings across the United States. In 2015 alone, there have been 45 in America while fewer than half that number in Canada. The violence must be addressed, as it is paramount to maintaining schools as places of safety for learning. The Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) in southern California has 56,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 36 elementary, 9 intermediate, and 7 high schools employing 4,665 personnel. It has its own police department, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is responsive to and collaborative with team members in the district's offices and with site-based school psychologists, administrators, and teachers who play a key role in crisis management. In the month of September 2015, the SAUSD staff of 25 officers and seven dispatchers responded to 1,903 calls for assistance. Responses included not only investigating incidents, patrol, and crime prevention, but also providing suicide risk assessments, threat management, and crisis response for students. With such a large number of responses needed, the SAUSD police department had long recognized the need for a multidisciplinary approach to school safety within the SAUSD and started collaborating with the district's risk management, pupil support services, and special education departments. Together, these departments set about creating a plan to collaboratively address issues involving crisis response and threat assessment. School psychologists are an integral part of this plan.


The threat management advisory team, assembled from many disciplines, incorporated representatives from several departments and utilized each to their greatest strengths:

* The risk management department could assist with the legal parameters and human resources.

* The police department could maintain the law.

* The pupil support department could identify appropriate programs for each student.

* The school psychologist could ease trauma and provide psychological care, if needed.

SAUSD also received a grant from the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies, allowing for a partnership to create online training modules for the district in mental health forthreat assessment responses on alarger scale. The cutting edge technology had an added element of an interactive avatar whose voice was dubbed by a SAUSD high school student based on previous real threat assessment scenarios.

As the lead school psychologist with training, education, and background in crisis response and threat assessment, I was invited to join the threat management advisory team in 2012. The training for school psychologists in conducting multidisciplinary assessments, progress monitoring, providing academic recommendations, and assisting with academic interventions was already well known. Threat assessment, however, was not thought of as an area of expertise for school psychologists, but it quickly became apparent that our training made us excellent partners in assisting responders in identifying interventions to swiftly meet the needs of SAUSD students.


The traditional role of a school psychologist in SAUSD was that of consulting with parents and teachers, offering educational resources, collaborating with general education teachers to recommend appropriate academic interventions, and assessing children for special education services. Over the past 15 years, the role of school psychologists in the district has expanded to include participating on school-based positive behavioral intervention teams, providing students with short-term counseling, collaborating with outside agencies, providing parenting classes, and leading site-based crisis response and threat assessments. The role continues to change and as we advocated for an expanded role and participated on each school's crisis response and threat assessment teams, it has become even more apparent that our training and functioning crosses many areas such as counseling, assessment, and meeting the needs of students in a wide array of interventions for social-emotional functioning. …

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