Boulder Valley School District

Protect your everyday: See Something? Say Something

Protect your everyday: See Something? Say Something
BVSD

En Español

The Boulder Valley School District and its partners in law enforcement take threats to schools and tips of suspicious activity extremely seriously. 

Given the threats that schools often face now, we spoke to Dr. John Nicoletti, a public safety psychologist that works with BVSD and other school districts, colleges and corporations across the nation to evaluate possible threats. He says that the steps taken in safety planning are protecting students and staff every day.

“In reality, threats are being stopped all the time, including in your school district,” explained Nicoletti. “It’s a combination of threat assessment and threat management. Threat assessment is trying to determine what level or risk we have. The threat management is doing the interventions or what we call disruptors.”

BVSD’s Threat Assessment Team was formed following the passage of Colorado’s Clare Davis Act and is made up of members of our Safety, Security, and Emergency Services, School and Network Leadership and Student Support Services that meet regularly to determine whether specific actions by students pose a danger to themselves or others – and then determine what steps to take next to support the child and their school community.

Every threat assessment results in a support plan that is managed by our schools and district threat assessment team. According to Nicoletti, in most cases, things return to normal and the threat subsides. Occasionally, if the concerning behavior happens again, schools can take additional actions to project students and staff.

Every threat is investigated in BVSD

Situations surrounding threats made to schools vary greatly in nature, after investigation, some tips or reports received by the BVSD security team are determined to lack verifiable information or credibility. 

However, all tips and threats are thoroughly investigated along with law enforcement, as required to protect our community and students.

“The key first step with a threat – if a threat is made, the district has to take it seriously. They need to do an investigation to make sure it is credible or not,” Nicoletti said. 

“Where districts get into trouble is when someone makes a threat and then we have what we call a unilateral threat assessment,” Nicoletti added. “[That is when] someone in the school district says, ‘oh, they didn’t mean it’ or ‘they were just joking,’ without doing an investigation.

See Something? Say Something! 

Everyone plays an important role in maintaining safe communities and schools. It’s important to know how to recognize suspicious behavior, when you do, immediately report it to 9-1-1 or the local authorities. 

If you see or hear suspicious activity or behavior individuals should reach out to their school principal, law enforcement or report it anonymously via Safe2Tell by calling 1-877-542-7233.

SafetoTell

“We call them detectors, Nicoletti said. “Whether it is kids or parents or the teachers. Detectors are typically the ones that prevent bad things from happening if they report it.”

By bringing your concern directly to authorities we can ensure that professionals can fully investigate concerns and take proper actions, if necessary. 

In some cases, the detector might be a child’s family. They, after all, know more about their child than anyone else and may see concerning behavior or actions that might be concealed to others outside the home. Nicoletti encourages those parents to share concerns with someone who can help.

“If your child is broadcasting a concerning behavior, ignoring that or hiding it is not going to help your child. The earlier you can get folks to intervene, the less likely they are to engage in something that could ruin them,” he said.

School personnel and the threat assessment team often help connect students to additional support, including mental health experts.

Recognizing Suspicious Activity 

Suspicious activity is any observed behavior that may indicate pre-operational planning associated with terrorism or terrorism-related crime. With the help of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified common signs of terrorism-related suspicious activity. Some activities could be innocent, but trained law enforcement officials can determine whether the behavior warrants further action.

Remember: Factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity are not suspicious. 

Some signs of suspicious activity include:

  • Unusual items or situations, such as an unattended bag or a vehicle parked in an odd location
  • Expressed or implied threats to an individuals or institutions
  • Surveillance that goes beyond casual interest or repeated/prolonged observation
  • Eliciting Information such as a person questioning about building operations or security at a level beyond curiosity
  • Attempted Intrusion

*Provided by: The Department of Homeland Security

Today, many times threats are made online.

 “A high percentage of attackers will use social media and broadcast on it,” Nicoletti said.

Reporting concerns also helps to avoid the spread of rumors and misinformation which can cause unnecessary concern and have unintended consequences to school operations.

Determining a threat’s credibility

Whenever a threat is reported, BVSD works closely with law enforcement partners to investigate. The goal is to determine each report’s credibility as soon as possible, by considering the means and motive. 

  • Means
    • Does the individual in question have access to weapons or skills needed to carry out the threat?
      “You look at the nature of the threat,” Nicoletti said. “You are looking at the skill set of the individual  [and access to necessary materials] to pull it off.”
  • Motive
    • What is driving the reported threat? How strongly do they feel?
      “The other variable we see that correlates with a threat is that the individual has a perceived injustice. I use the word perceived because sometimes the injustices aren’t real,” Nicoletti said.

The Process

Investigators look at the following when determining the credibility of a reported threat:

  • Evaluating evidence
  • Conducting interviews
  • Gathering other intelligence

Types of Threats

Threats can take all kinds of shapes. They may be verbal. They might simply be a menacing emoji. Nicoletti says there are three primary categories that they fall into and shared some examples of each below:

  • Direct threat
    “I’m going to come down there and kill somebody.”
     
  • Veiled threats
    “There are two ways to do things, there’s your way and mine.”
    “I can understand how the Columbine shooters decided to do what they did.”
     
  • Conditional threats (if, then)
    If I get kicked off the football team, then I’m coming back to get you all.”


What you can expect

In some cases, investigators are able to ascertain that there is no corroborating evidence to the threat and therefore regular activities should continue, as normal. 

When a threat is considered credible, BVSD will share all available information with the community, including:

  • Information about the threat/situation
  • Actions to be taken protect students, staff and the community at-large
  • Any updates provided by BVSD security or law enforcement

A Standard Response Protocol (SRP) may be activated when there is a threat to a school or as a precaution while law enforcement performs an investigation. Parents will also receive emergency alerts as needed, notifying them of any Secure, Lockdown, Hold, Shelter or Evacuation activated at their child’s school. Learn more about SRP Alerts here.

In many cases, BVSD does not hold all information surrounding an investigation and must defer to other agencies regarding information that must be withheld for the benefit of the criminal investigation and by law.

The safety of our schools is a community effort. We ask for your partnership and patience during investigations. BVSD will provide all information that is available to share with families and staff.

School violence can be prevented

According to Nicoletti, what makes the school district safe from violence is:

  1. All threats are taken seriously
  2. A threat assessment team considers risks and takes appropriate action
  3. Security teams work to ensure schools have strong security protocols
  4. Students and staff regularly participate in safety drills.

“Participating in [Lockdown drills in BVSD] is really helpful because with kids it creates a positive muscle memory with protocols like Locks, Lights and Out of Sight. Kids know what to do during an emergency,” Nicoletti said.

Learn more about BVSD’s layered system for protecting students at staff and our plan for emergencies at www.bvsd.org/be-ready

“It is hard to evaluate the effectiveness of a prevention program,” Nicoletti said. “You just don’t know how many bad things have been stopped through those efforts.”


 


 

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