What Did I Miss? Recap of IAASE Presentation on Special Education Evaluations and Threat Assessments

Franczek P.C.
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Franczek P.C.

Dana Fattore Crumley and Kendra Yoch were honored to present at the IAASE 21st Annual Winter Conference in Springfield on “The Crossroads of Special Education Evaluation and Risk Assessment: Which Issue Has the Right of Way?” For anyone who was not able to make the conference or session, here is a handy recap and some key takeaways to bring you up to speed on the intersection between threat assessment and special education evaluations.

You probably will not be surprised to learn that students with disabilities are more likely than their general education peers to be referred for a threat assessment. Indeed, students who have deficits in social communication, executive functioning, or emotional regulation may be more inclined to make a threat when confronted with a difficult situation. And students with IEPs are often more closely monitored than their general education peers, so adults may be more likely to discover when a threat has been made. In our presentation, we examined how the threat assessment and special education processed intersect. We focused on two areas: threat assessments versus psychological and psychiatric assessments and safety plans versus behavior intervention plans.

A psychological assessment is done as part of a case study evaluation to determine whether a student has a disability under IDEA and what special education and related services may be needed. A psychological assessment requires informed, written parental consent and may include components such as cognitive tests, academics tests, behavior rating scales, and clinical assessments, as well as a review of prior records. A threat assessment, on the other hand, is done in response to a threat to identify the risk of violence and identify appropriate supports and interventions. A threat assessment does not require parental consent when done by school personnel and often includes a student interview, review of records, and interviews of witnesses.

A few questions frequently arise when a student with an IEP makes a threat. First, can a school initiate both a threat assessment and a special education reevaluation? Absolutely.

First, can a school initiate both a threat assessment and a special education reevaluation? Absolutely.

Both may be needed if a student with a disability makes a threat, but the assessments serve different purposes and involve different components and so should not be combined.

Second, can the threat assessment team review a student’s special education evaluation and can the IEP team review a student’s threat assessment? Yes to this one too.

Second, can the threat assessment team review a student’s special education evaluation and can the IEP team review a student’s threat assessment? Yes to this one too.

Staff with a legitimate educational or administrative interest in a student’s records can access them. Generally, the IEP team will need to have a full understanding of a student’s threatening behavior to understand the student’s needs and determine the appropriate goals, services, and placement. Likewise, the threat assessment team will generally need to understand the student’s disability, history of behaviors, and skill deficits to determine whether the threat was substantive.

Turning to the intervention plans, a behavior intervention plan is developed based on a functional behavior analysis and is developed by the IEP team, including the parents. A BIP addresses a target behavior and includes interventions such as modifications to the environment and teaching replacement behaviors. A safety plan, conversely, is generally developed by the threat assessment team and many aspects do not require parental consent. A safety plan might include increased supervision, added support services, and schedule changes (that do not impact the student’s IEP services). While the plans may have areas of overlap, a BIP is an ongoing intervention based on a student’s disability-related interfering behavior, while a safety plan addresses a particular threat at a moment in time.

Key Takeaways

Education for school staff and parents related to these different but complementary processes is critical. Staff must be clear about which process to initiate when to ensure that the school is dealing with both the immediate threat and the ongoing obligation to provide the student FAPE. Staff and parents also need to understand the level of parental involvement required for each process. Finally, information sharing and collaboration between the staff involved are also critical for the efficient and fruitful functioning of both processes.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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