Shen fine-tunes protocol for at-risk students

Shenendehowa Central Schools entrance on Route 146 in Clifton Park.

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHERShenendehowa Central Schools entrance on Route 146 in Clifton Park. MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — Over the past year, the Shenendehowa Central School District implemented more consistent threat protocol procedures, aimed at better helping students who could be a danger to themselves or others.

In the spring of 2014, a committee that consisted of district administrators, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals convened to develop the Shenendehowa Threat Assessment Protocol. The protocol determines how faculty members and administrators would respond to students in crisis, and also lays out possible follow up actions that would provide further help for at-risk students.

At the Aug. 1 board of education meeting, Rebecca Carman, director of policy and community development, outlined the comprehensive threat response procedures, and explained that the protocol was fully implemented over the last school year, and that it has been used to provide consistency in how the district responds when made aware of a real or perceived threat from a student.

“If somebody says something, or we hear something, or somebody tells us something, there’s a process that we’re following to ensure that that student is safe, and that all students are safe,” Carman said at the meeting.

The goal of the protocol and threat assessment plan, Carman explained, is to have a solid, universal procedure in place that district officials can follow when faced with a student who could pose a threat. In the past, Carman said, the district did not have consistent process to follow in response to a student expressing suicidal or harmful thoughts.

Carman further explained that part of the protocol involves district officials being able to determine the risk level of a particular student may be at, and whether he or she is exhibiting suicidal thoughts or thoughts of violence towards other students. She added that the protocol provides a consistency in deciding which steps to take to help or respond to students after rating them low-to-high risk.

Depending on the student’s risk level, Carman added, the district takes the necessary steps to follow up and continue to monitor the situation, which might include a call to the student’s parents or, in more serious cases, sending students to a hospital. How the district reacts, Carman said, depends on the student and his or her individual needs. Some students, she said, could be seeing an outside therapist in conjunction with one of the district’s mental health caretakers.

The new threat protocols, which also included all teachers and other personnel being trained to handle at-risk students, formalized the district response process, Carman said,

But, she said, even with the new plan making it smoother for teachers and administration to respond to students and provide the necessary follow up care and complete documentation to record and continue to monitor students for possible issues, the district will continue to work on improving the protocol plan

“We’ll continue to tweak it to make sure it’s meeting the needs of our students,” Carman said. “We want to make sure all students are successful.”