A Guide to Preventing


According to studies, youth violence in schools is on the decline both across the nation and in Connecticut. The work of schools, families, communities, and youth to collaborate in prevention efforts is likely a key factor in this downward trend. However, acts of violence at schools across the country continue to raise concerns about the safety of students.

A common factor among many incidents of school violence is a voiced or written threat to students and/or teachers prior to the acts. School staff, families, and students need to know what to do when they hear a threat of violence. In addition to preventing violence, addressing threats often provides students with much needed help and support.


The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education formally defines a threat as: a terroristic threat shall mean a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize another, to cause evacuation of a building, or to cause serious public inconvenience, in reckless disregard of the risk causing such terror or inconvenience.

Threats can range from boastful taunts, to harassment, to bullying behavior, to the intent to commit deadly acts. All threats should be taken seriously and assessed to determine the level of risk and danger involved.


Whether you are a teacher, an administrator, a parent, or another caring adult in a young person’s life, you have a role to play when a threat is made. Consider the following suggested actions:

  • Do not wait to see “what happens.”

  • Choose a time to talk with the student when you know you will not be interrupted or overheard.

  • Let the student know what you have heard and! or observed and share your concern for his/her is feeling.

  • Listen seriously to what s/he tells you; acknowledge the student’s point of view, even if you don’t agree with it.

  • Ask direct questions such as, “What were you planning to do?,” “How were you planning to do it?,” “When?”

  • Focusing on what control s/he has in the situation, explore alternative ways to resolve conflict and to change circumstances.

  • Explain that you need to document and refer the incident to the student’s family and to school officials.

  • Refer to administration and to helping professionals in the school building (e.g. Student Assistance Team) and the community.

  • Establish a partnership with the student, school, family and community.

  • Inform the family and listen to them when early warning signs are observed.

  • Maintain confidentiality and the family’s rights to privacy.

  • Always follow up with the young person, referring him/her to community helping professionals as appropriate.


    When tragedies occur, attempts are often made to create a profile of the “type” of person likely to commit such acts. That is not the intent in presenting the following warning signs. These behaviors of concern are offered to raise awareness of the ways in which any young person may demonstrate that he/she needs help.

    Warning signs in the school-aged child

    Has trouble paying attention and concentrating
    Often disrupts classroom activities
    Does poorly in school
    Frequently gets into fights with other children in school
    Reacts to disappointments, criticism, or teasing with extreme and intense anger,
    blame or revenge
    Watches many violent television shows and movies or plays a lot of violent video games
    Has few friends and is often rejected by other children because of his or her behavior
    Consistently does not listen to adults
    Is not sensitive to the feelings of others
    Is cruel or violent toward pets or other animals

    Warning signs in the adolescent/teenage student

    Social withdrawal
    Excessive feelings of isolation and being alone
    Excessive feelings of rejection
    Being a victim of violence, including being bullied and/or harassed
    Low school interest; poor academic performance and low attendance
    Expression of violence in writings and drawings
    Possible history of discipline problems
    Intolerance for differences and prejudicial attitudes
    Use of alcohol and/or other drugs
    Inappropriate access to, possession of, or use of firearms

    Many thanks to the following for their assistance in writing this brochure:

    LeAnn Beaulieu

    Leigh Jones-Bamman,


    Vincent Mustaro
    CT Association of Boards of Education
    Scott Newgass

    Amy Powell,


    Nancy Pugliese,
    CT State Department of Education

    Safe Schools& Communities

    A public service of the:

    Physicians’ Health and Education Fund

     For more information, call: 
    The Safe Schools and Communities Coalition

     30 Arbor Street
     Hartford, CT 06106
             860.523.8042 ext. 36