Violence Prevention & Threat Assessment Policy & Procedures

University of Mary Washington

Violence Prevention and Threat Assessment
Policy and Procedures

Date of Most Current Revision: January 2016
Primary Responsible Officer:
Vice President for Student Affairs
Secondary Responsible Officer: Dean of Student Life

Pursuant to Code of Virginia, Section 23-9.2

Policy Statement

The University of Mary Washington (UMW) promotes a safe and secure environment in which to learn and work by prohibiting threats or acts of violence by or against members of the University community, including but not limited to the following:

  • Intentionally causing physical injury to self or another person;
  • Engaging in behavior that creates a risk of physical injury to self or another person (e.g., stalking);
  • Brandishing or using a firearm, weapon, or other device in violation of law or University policy;
  • Intentionally damaging property;
  • Threatening to cause injury to self or another person or to damage property; and/or
  • Other conduct prohibited by law or University policy.

UMW prohibits threats and acts of violence on University property and within University facilities. In addition, UMW prohibits threats or acts of violence at any University-sponsored event; while engaged in University business, educational or athletic activities; and while traveling in University vehicles. UMW will also evaluate any conduct that occurs off-duty or outside the above-listed activities, when that conduct may impact an employee’s or student’s relationship with the University community.

UMW will use a variety of strategies to educate members of the University community; identify, prevent and provide consequences for threats and acts of violence; and mitigate the effects of threats and acts of violence on victims.

Any UMW member who becomes aware of information that suggests a potential risk of violence should, as soon as possible, report that information to the University of Mary Washington Police Department for investigation.

No person who, in good faith, reports threatening or otherwise troubling behavior in accordance with this policy will be subject to retaliation.

UMW Violence Prevention Team (VPT)

Violence Prevention Team Purpose:

The UMW Violence Prevention Team (VPT) is a multidisciplinary group composed of members of various campus departments who meet regularly (and as needed) to develop comprehensive threat management oversight and programming for the University of Mary Washington.
Violence Prevention Team (VPT) Mission:

The UMW Violence Prevention Team (VPT) strives to improve community safety through proactive, collaborative, and thoughtful approaches to the prevention and assessment of situations that pose, or may reasonably pose, a threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.

Goals:

  • The Violence Prevention Team formulates and reviews policies and procedures about violence prevention and threat assessment management at the University of Mary Washington.
  • The Violence Prevention Team provides guidance to the campus community regarding the recognition of behavior that may represent a threat to the community and how such behavior should be reported.

Violence Prevention Team Composition:

  • Vice President for Student Affairs (Chair)
  • Dean of Student Life
  • Chief of Police
  • Associate Vice President and Director of Human Resources
  • Employee Relations Analyst, Human Resources
  • Faculty representative, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Faculty representative, College of Education
  • Faculty representative, College of Business
  • Director, Talley Center for Counseling Services
  • Director of Residence Life and Commuter Student Services
  • Associate Vice President for University Relations
  • University counsel (if available)
  • Other participants may also be included

Threat Assessment Team (TAT)

In addition to the UMW Violence Prevention Team, the University has a Threat Assessment Team (TAT) composed of a multidisciplinary group of colleagues who meet regularly to implement the assessment, intervention, and action policies of the Violence Prevention Team.

Threat Assessment Team Purpose:

The UMW Threat Assessment Team (TAT) is a multidisciplinary group composed of members of various campus departments who meet regularly (and as needed in crisis situations) to recognize and respond to various types of concerns, emerging concerns, and threats that may pose a significant disruption to the campus environment and thus the institution’s academic mission.

Threat Assessment Team Mission:

The UMW Threat Assessment Team (TAT) strives to improve community safety through a proactive, collaborative, and thoughtful approach to the prevention, identification, intervention, and management of situations that pose, or may reasonably pose, a threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.

Goals:

  • The primary goal of the Threat Assessment Team is to identify, prevent, and reduce the risk of violence on campus and to promote the safety and well-being of all members of the University community.
  • The TAT is not a disciplinary body; it works to improve community safety through a proactive, collaborative, and thoughtful process of identifying, assessing, managing, and preventing – whenever possible – situations that pose a threat to the campus community.

Threat Assessment Team Composition:

  • Dean of Student Life (Chair)
  • Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Chief of Police
  • Associate Vice President and Director of Human Resources
  • Dean of Student Involvement
  • Associate Athletics Director
  • Faculty representative
  • Director, Talley Center for Counseling Services
  • Director of Residence Life and Commuter Student Services
  • University counsel (if available)
  • Other participants may also be included

Threat Assessment Team (TAT) Procedures

The basic sequence of events for the Threat Assessment Team is that behaviors of concern are brought to the TAT’s attention, assessed, and then addressed through monitoring and/or intervention, depending on the results of the initial assessment. This is not necessarily a linear process. Each step – identification and communication of behaviors; assessing; intervening; and monitoring – may raise complex issues and possible responses. The steps can be taken sequentially or divided up by team members and handled concurrently. Information gathered in the inquiry process should be brought back to the Team as it is gathered, both to keep the TAT informed about current information and prepared if new information suggests a change in direction or response.

The Threat Assessment Team aims to help preserve the safety and security of the University community in collaboration with other University and community services. We provide consultation to the University in any circumstance in which there is concern that someone poses a danger to harm others. We inclusively consider situations that involve students, staff members, visitors, and others in the vicinity of the University community. Our philosophy is to identify concerns in their early phases and to work constructively and collaboratively with all parties before problems escalate into violent outcomes. We encourage everyone in the University community to be willing to seek help for themselves or others when there are safety concerns.

The TAT will document all reports, actions, referrals, and follow-up. In accordance with Virginia law, TAT meetings are closed meetings and all documents recorded in or compiled for use in any TAT meeting are exempt from disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

If the behavior constitutes an emergency, the matter should be reported immediately, if off-campus, to the local police (911), or, if on-campus, to the UMW police at 777 or 4444 from a campus phone or 540-654-4444 from a cell phone.

The Threat Assessment Team, or a TAT subgroup, is convened to discuss a potential threat to, or by, a member of the UMW community (including students, faculty, staff, guests, and visitors), whether the behavior is reported to a member of the team or whether a member of the team observes the behavior firsthand. Once the TAT is assembled, next steps will depend on the severity of the behavior, and whether it constitutes an emergency situation.

Scheduling Procedures: The Chair of the Threat Assessment Team may schedule meetings via phone or email and will briefly describe the situation, set a time, date, and location of the meeting, and inform team members whether additional information is available in Maxient.

Assessment and Management Process

The Threat Assessment Team (TAT) receives reports regarding students, employees, or others whose behavior (and circumstances) may impact the educational and working environment of the University of Mary Washington. TAT members evaluate the legitimacy of concerns reported and assess the likelihood that the individual in question may pose a threat to him/herself or others, or may pose a significant disruption.

The Threat Assessment Team monitors and reevaluates the strategies employed during and after the intervention/management process.

What is defined as a threat?

Threats are communications or indications of intent to harm others or oneself or disrupt the safety and security of a campus. Threats can be communicated directly to the intended target or indirectly to third parties. They may also be expressed in private or pubic statements, e.g., in journals or on social media.

General Steps in Threat Assessment Process

Step 1: Identify the Threat

Identify an individual who has engaged in behaviors that have raised serious concern regarding the individual’s well-being, stability and/or potential for violence, suicide or self-harm.

  • If an immediate threat is perceived, members will initiate direct intervention by the UMW Police and include necessary supervisory or other personnel for assessment and support.
  • If an immediate threat is not perceived and there is continued concern for the individual’s welfare and/or circumstances, the TAT Chair is notified and the necessary membership will be mobilized to further assess and manage the situation.

Step 2: Evaluate the Seriousness of the Threat

When the Threat Assessment Team is gathered, they will conduct an initial screening to determine the status of the situation.

Review Documentation and Develop Responses

  • Review incident reports and relevant documentation.
  • Assess current circumstances and develop “next steps.”
  • Discuss community impact and how to manage internal and external constituencies.
  • Define issues of rights and compliance.
  • Initiate background check if necessary.

Questions to ask might be among the following:

  • Has there been any mention of suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts?
  • Has there been any mention of thoughts/plans of violence?
  • Have there been any behaviors that cause concern for violence or an individual’s well-being?
  • Does the person have access to weapons or has s/he attempted to gain access to weapons?
  • Are there behaviors which are significantly disruptive to the campus environment?
  • Have there been any communications suggesting ideas/intent to attack?
  • Is individual experiencing hopelessness, desperation, despair?

If answer is yes to any of the above, additional research and support will be needed. If no, the assessment will be assigned a priority.

If “yes,” conduct full review/inquiry.

Gather additional information from relevant sources, e.g., faculty members, coaches, conduct records, incident reports, human resources, coworkers, family members.

Answer review questions such as the following:

  • Have there been any communications suggesting ideas/intent to attack?
  • Is individual experiencing hopelessness, desperation, despair?
  • Does individual have at least one trusting relationship/source of social support?
  • What circumstances are likely to mitigate/aggravate the situation/risk?
  • What are individual’s goals/motives?
  • Has individual shown any inappropriate interest in weapons, mass violence, stalking?
  • Has individual engaged in any attack-related behaviors, such as planning, practicing?
  • Does the individual have the capacity to act?
    Does individual see violence/self-harm as acceptable way to solve problems?
  • Are individual’s story and actions consistent?

Step 3: Intervene to reduce the risk of violence

Make a formal assessment and assign priority level: (Priority 1-3 remain “active”)

Priority 1 – Extreme Risk: Clear and immediate threat of serious violence to self or others and requiring containment.

Priority 2 – High Risk: Appears to pose threat of self-harm or physical violence, usually to identifiable target, but lacks immediacy or specific plan or plan exists without specified target.

Priority 3 – Moderate Risk: Does not appear to pose threat of harm to self or others, but does exhibit behaviors likely to significantly disrupt community.

Priority 4 – Low Risk: Does not appear to pose threat of harm to self/others, nor significant disruption, but may need referrals.

Priority 5 – No Identified Risk: Does not appear to pose threat to self/others or significant disruption to community. No further action required.

Step 4:

Develop and implement plan to manage and monitor individual. Assign responsibilities and set schedule for follow-up. Depending on the assessment, interim suspension or medical withdrawal may be required.

Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT)

Behavioral Intervention Team Purpose:

With regard to individual student concerns, the Office of Student Life’s Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) will assess the situation, meet as needed, and refer an emerging crisis and/or possible threat or risk of violence to the Threat Assessment Team as appropriate.  The BIT addresses student behavior or reported behavior that is caused by or derives from (or is believed caused by or derives from) a psychological problem or disorder, an emotional problem or disorder, potential harm to self or others, general concerns regarding changes in behaviors, or substance abuse.

Behavioral Intervention Team Mission:

The Behavioral Intervention Team’s mission is to identify and assist students in accessing resources that will help them meet expected University behavioral standards and succeed academically, personally, and socially. The BIT process complements the University of Mary Washington’s student conduct system and is considered supportive to student concerns. It is not a disciplinary body.

Team Composition:

  • Dean of Student Life (Chairperson)
  • Representative from the UMW Police Department
  • Director, Talley Center for Counseling Services

The BIT might consult with representatives from the following offices:

  • Residence Life and Commuter Services
  • Office of Student Conduct and Responsibility
  • Academic and Career Services
  • Disability Resources
  • Other participants as appropriate

Behavioral Intervention Team Procedures:

When a referral is submitted through an online report, an email, or a phone call, a member of the BIT Team receives the report.

The team evaluates each report and the BIT may reach out to the student of concern to assess any resources needed and collaboratively develop an action plan with the student to reduce obstacles for their success at UMW.
BIT members will assist the student in coordinating with resources and check in on their progress.
In the event that a student is perceived to be at risk of harm to self or others, the BIT will inform the Threat Assessment Team (TAT) for assessment by that group and, if appropriate, also coordinate with appropriate University offices to assist the student.

The BIT may determine that there is no need to take any further action but will monitor the situation and concern.

Enforcement of Law and University Policy

The University of Mary Washington Police Department will investigate any report of violence, threats, or any suspicious or alleged criminal conduct committed in any University facility or on University property.

Any person violating federal or state law may be charged and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Any student violating University policy will be subject to disciplinary action under the Code of Conduct and may be subject to the penalties provided therein including interim suspension or other separation from the University as appropriate.

Any employee violating University policy will be subject to disciplinary action under the applicable standards of conduct as noted in the Employee Handbook up to and including termination.

Records

Upon a preliminary determination that an individual poses a threat of violence to self or others at UMW, or exhibits significantly disruptive behavior or need for assistance, the TAT may obtain criminal history record information, as provided in the Code of Virginia §§ 19.2-389 and 19.2-389.1, and health records, as provided in § 32.1-127.1:03. No member of a threat assessment team shall redisclose any criminal history record information or health information obtained pursuant to this section or otherwise use any record of an individual beyond the purpose for which such disclosure was made to the TAT.

Support for Victims and Affected Community Members

The University always strives to support victims of threats or acts of violence and affected community members, e.g.,

  • Referring victims and affected members to appropriate University and community resources, such as law enforcement, health care facilities, counseling services, victim advocacy groups, legal aid, and domestic violence shelters;
  • Providing flexible work hours or short-term or extended leave, as provided under applicable University policies;
  • Cooperating with law enforcement and prosecutors in accordance with federal and state law.