Threat assessment is a crucial component of violence prevention in schools. However, sometimes the warning signs that a threat assessment is needed are not always obvious. In this article, we look at how to identify the warning signs. It is important to keep in mind that while there are common warning signs, the relationship you have with your students will also affect what counts as concerning behavior.

Possible Warning Signs

How do we know if a student is just having a bad day or if their behavior is a sign of a potential threat? This is a complicated question, but we can pay attention to the following warning signs:

  • Signs of being picked on, teased, bullied, or humiliated at home or at school

  • Social withdrawal

  • Indications of being a victim of violence

  • Low school interest and poor academic performance

  • Exhibiting signs of rejection

  • Exhibiting signs of isolation or consciously being alone

  • Aggressive and violent behavior

  • Intolerance for differences and prejudicial attitudes

  • Drug and alcohol use

  • Significant losses or personal failures

  • History of suicidal gestures, thoughts, attempts

  • Mentions or discusses access to weapons

  • Leakage: posters, academic assignments, movies, books, internet searches—websites, blogs

  • Making threats in a “joking” manner

General Indications of Violence Potential

We all know that it is rarely just one factor that plays into a child's violent behavior. It is also important to know some of the child's behavioral history, as well as their mental health history, in order to determine what makes a child more likely to engage in violence. Some of these indicators may be:

Possible Triggering Events to Initiate the Threat Assessment Process

A lot of warning signs tend to develop over time, but there are times when significant events may escalate the need for threat assessment. The following events are red flags that the threat of violence may be imminent:


Colorado School Safety Resource Center -

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