Adam Gosney, “Reducing Risk”

Reducing Risk
Creation and Implementation of a PostSecondary Violence Threat and Risk
Assessment Protocol.
Adam Gosney, Coordinator, Counselling, Mind & Wellness
Catherine O’Rourke, Director, Student Services
Learning Outcomes
• What is VTRA Protocol.
• Why postsecondary institutions benefit from formal
Violence Threat and Risk Assessment Protocol?
• VTRA Protocol and congruency with Student Health,
Student Success and Retention Initiatives
• Importance of multi-disciplinary and multidepartmental collaboration.
Learning Outcomes
• Loyalist College’s Protocol
– Identifying “students of concern”.
– Risk Assessment Review and Violence Threat and Risk Assessment Processes.
– Historical barriers and success in implementation.
• Confidentiality and Fair Notice
• Duty to Accommodate
What is VTRA Protocol
• A systematic response in policy and procedure to
deal with incidents of high risk and threat making
behaviour by members of the postsecondary
• Seeks to assess for level of risk and/or threat.
• Implementation of a “Risk Reducing Intervention”
aimed at mitigating risk and increasing/restoring
campus safety.
Why Institutions Benefit from a Formal VTRA Protocol
• Acts of violence in post secondary settings are
increasing in frequency
(Drysdale, Modzeleski, & Simons. 2010)
• Millennial Students
– Greater impulsivity.
– Low stress tolerance
– Difficulty delaying gratification or coping with
responsive anxiety. (American Psychological Association, 2012)
– Greater propensity to engage in risk or threat making
behaviour as a means of mitigating their anxiety
(Bland, et al, 2012).
• Aggregate levels of
violence remain stable
since 1970’s.
• Serious violence
becoming concentrated
in youth populations.(Roher
• Increased enrollment in
institutions correlates
with increased incidents
of violence (Drysdale, Modzeleski, &
Simons. 2010).
Purpose of Formal VTRA Protocol
• Primary Purpose
– Determine if threat maker or student of concern
poses a risk to the target or themselves.
– Take measures to ensure the safety of the target or
the threat maker.
• Secondary Purpose
– Determine course of intervention aimed at reducing
risk and mitigating variables associated with risk.
(CCTATR 2011)
Why Post Secondary Institutions Benefit from
Formal VTRA Protocol
• Data Driven Assessment.
– Without formal training and protocol
“there is a tendency to inadvertently
engage in emotionally-driven
assessments where level of risk is
based on subjective responses (Cameron
– Institutional dynamics and political
optics have potential of influencing risk
– Data driven assessments provide
confirmed and factual evidence that
can then be used to ascertain “known
level of risk”
Congruency with Health, Success and
Retention Efforts.
VTRA protocol is
• Responsive,
• Restorative
• Preventative.
Primary assumption is a “cry for help hypothesis”.
Ethical responsibility to respond.
All efforts are made to keep the student engaged with
the institution and appropriate services/resources.
Objective is to remediate the issue causing the behaviour
and assist the student to restore functionality.
Expulsion is the less than ideal response.
Importance of Multi-Disciplinary/Departmental
• Adequate data can only come from multiple sources and points of
– Faculty, Student Success, Residence, Registrar.
– Primary “front line” points of contact for students.
• Without adequate data the assesment may be flawed and inaccurate.
• Allows institution members to feel that they are a part of the process
designed to keep themselves safe.
• Increases likelihood that Faculty/Staff will maintain a vested interest in
participating in the identification of high risk/threat making behaviour.
• Discourages the use of “interdepartmental measures” that do not involve
the VTRA team.
Typical Composition
• Primary:
– Security, Student Success,
Dean/Provost, Chair, Faculty, Health
Nurse, Mental Health/Disability
Services Staff, Academic Advisors,
Senior Mgmt., Police.
• Secondary:
– Community Mental Health/Health,
Probation/Parole, Parents, Children's
Aid Society (Crown Wards)
– Important to have partner agencies
sign off on protocol.
Risk Reduction vs. Elimination
• Risk reduction is often the ideal outcome.
• Complex variables preclude VTRA from being a
definitive “Risk Eliminating” solution.
• Often a “best case” scenario.
• Control for as many variables as possible
Case Example
• Student. Male, 23yrs.
• Cited for use of substances in Residence.
• Questioned about possession of several knives (claimed to be
a personal knife collection).
• Residence staff also found anti-depressant medication along
with the knives and substances.
• Residence staff questioned about the risk of self harm after
finding the knives and the anti-depressants.
• Student comes to Counselling Services is highly agitated about
the “judgments about my mental health” and treatment by
Residence staff.
• Demonstrating highly aggressive, irrational and fixated
thinking. (Only outcome to punch someone or punch a wall
and harm self).
Case Example
• Residence Staff debriefed.
Didn’t appear agitated at the time of the reprimand.
Did not appear distressed or in duress.
Staff didn’t feel unsafe in his presence.
He’s not a physically intimidating guy.
Didn’t get a bad gut feeling about him.
Seems to be a nice guy.
Staff felt bad about having to discipline him.
• Staff didn’t confiscate the knives based on assumption's contained
in their. . .
Case Example
Data Driven Assessment
• Highly agitated person who's sense of personal stigma has just been
• Demonstrating irrational and fixated beliefs
– About the events that caused him to be offended.
– About ways to mange his current emotional distress.
– About ways to maintain his and others emotional and physical safety.
Is in possession of several knives large enough to be considered weapons.
Is a daily substance user.
Is struggling with mental health issues.
Has low familial support and no friends on campus.
Just broke up with his girlfriend.
No structured recreation other than marijuana and videogames.
Is struggling academically.
Unknown history of violence. Unknown previous school history.
Loyalist College. RAR-VTRA Protocol Overview
• Formal VTRA PostSecondary protocol.
Risk Assessment Review
• Reviewed and sanctioned
by Kevin Cameron and
• Signed with multiple
community partners
including local Public
School Board and Police
Violence Threat Risk Assessment
September 20, 2012
Loyalist VTRA Protocol
RAR-VTRA Process Tree
Director Student Success
and Dean to Evaluate
Level 1 BRP Violation
Risk Assesment Review
Student Intervention
VIolence Threat Risk
Level 2 BRP Violation
Risk Assesment Review
VTRA Student
Intevention Plan
RAR to VTRA Triage
Student Intervention
Input Received.
Violence Threat Risk
Level 3 BRP Violation
Risk Assesment Review
RAR to VTRA Triage
VTRA Student
Intervention Plan
Student Intervention
Return to Campus Mgmt
Involuntary Leave of
Exit to Community
Level 4 BRP Violation
Emergency Response
Plan (911)
Loyalist VTRA Protocol
Vessels of Identification.
• Incident Report Form
– Available to all faculty, staff and students.
• Collaborative response by Director Student Success and Dean.
• Risk Assessment Review
– Weekly meeting to discuss incidents of Risk and Threat
Making behaviors.
• Security, Student Success, Health, and HR.
• Behaviour benchmarks established by Student Code of
Conduct and Behavioral Responsibility Protocol.
Risk Assesment Review Process
• Incidents and students of concern brought forward from any
team members.
• Details of known interactions discussed.
– Innocuous incidents can appear much more involved and
problematic once all information is shared.
• Further data gathering commitments delegated.
• Discussion of other parties who need to be involved (Dean,
Registrar, Police)
• Interventions proposed or reported on.
• Decision about Student Intervention Plan or escalation to
formal VTRA.
RAR to VTRA Triage Checklist
• Adapted from the HCR 20 Triage
Considerations (Douglas et al, 2010).
• Purpose to analyze specific data
relevant to high risk/threat making
• Provides predictive outcome of
Negative, Possible or Probable.
• Can be employed as a data based tool
to inform escalation from RAR to
VTRA where uncertainty exists.
RAR to VTRA Triage.
• Negative
– Continue to Monitor
• Possible
– Gather additional Data.
– Risk Reducing intervention (SIP)
– Consider necessity to convene VTRA
• Probable.
– Convene VTRA
– Involve Police
– Address immediate risk to campus
– Risk reducing intervention (SIP)
– Monitor, reevaluate on weekly basis.
Student Intervention Plan
• Outlines the activities the student of
concern will participate in as part of
the risk reducing intervention.
– Participation in on and off campus services.
– Can restrict or redirect on-campus
– Conditions regarding substance use and
consumption of alcohol on campus.
– Academic performance and attendance.
– Behavioral expectations.
– Time frame and consequences for not
following through.
Disciplinary Sanction
• Not the first line of response but sometimes
indicated based on the violation or the
participation/demeanor of the student of
– Financial penalty, suspension, work-study position
loss, participation in restorative mediation,
involuntary leave of absence, expulsion.
• Ontario’s Freedom of Information
and Protection of Privacy Act
(Ontario FIPPA) (Ontario MFIPPA)
• Permits the disclosure of personal
information “in compelling
circumstances affecting the health
or safety of an individual.”
• Allows for disclosure “in
compassionate circumstances, to
facilitate contact with the spouse, a
close relative or a friend of an
individual who is injured, ill or
• Ontario Personal Health Information
Protection Act (Ontario PHIPA)
• Allows for disclosure of personal health
information if
– the health information custodian “believes on
reasonable grounds that the disclosure is
necessary for the purpose of eliminating or
reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm
to a person or group of persons.”
Fair Notice Statement
• Written into VTRA Protocol and Student
Manual/Code of Conduct.
• Distributed and electronically signed by
all students prior to being able to log on
to the computer system for the first time
each year.
• References code of conduct and outlines
for students under which circumstances a
VTRA will be conducted upon them.
• References their mandatory participation
in the VTRA process and Student
Intervention Plan.
• Paramount importance to have individuals skilled in
the interpretation and application of privacy legislation
at the table (ie.) Counsellors, Nurses.
• These individuals need to spearhead and filter the
sharing of Mental Health and Psychosocial related
information as Personal Health Information Custodians
or Agents (PHIPA 2004).
Duty to Accommodate.
• Addressing the conduct of a student-of-concern can pose unique
challenges to the College where that student has a learning,
psychological, or physical disability that is contributing to the
concerning behaviour.
• College must accommodate to the point of “undue hardship”
• “health and safety risks will amount to undue hardship if the degree
of risk that remains after the accommodation has been made
outweigh the benefits of enhancing equality for persons with
disabilities”(pg. 28). The student seeking accommodation
• Student must make full disclosure of the mental health issue and
may be required to provide medication documentation/evidence.
Duty to Accommodate.
• Student must agree to and have the
capacity to participate in the
accommodation process.
• Accommodations offered must be
accessed in a manner and on a
timeline that maintains the health
and safety of the campus
• Failure to participate does not
necessitate an additional
American Psychological Association. 2012. Stress by Generations. Retrieved from
Bland, H. W., Melton, B. F., Welle, P., & Bigham, L. 2012. Stress Tolerance: New challenges for
millennial college students. College Student Journal, 46(2), p. 362-375. Retrieved from
Cameron, K., J. (2010). Level II Violence Threat Risk Assessment (V-TRA): Data Analysis & Strategic
Cameron, K., J. (2011, April 27). Violent Threat Risk Assessment Model (VTRA) [Webcast]. Retrieved
Douglas, K. S., Webster, C. D., Hart, S. D., Eaves, D., & Ogloff, J. R. P. (Eds.) (2001). HCR-20: Violence
risk management companion guide. Vancouver, BC/Tampa, FL: Mental Health, Law, and Policy
Institute, Simon Fraser University/Department of Mental Health Law & Policy, University of South
Drysdale, D., Modzeleski, W., and Simons, A. (2010). Campus Attacks: Targeted Violence
Affecting Institutions of Higher Education. U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education, and Federal
Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. Washington, D.C., 2010. Retrieved from
Hartman, J. L., & McCambridge. 2011. Optimizing Millennials’ Communication Styles.
Business Communication Quarterly, 74 (1), p22-44. DOI: 10.1177/1080569910395564
Tice, D., M., Bratslavsky, E., & Baumeister, R., F. (2001) Emotional distress regulation takes
precedence over impulse control: if you feel bad, do it. Journal of personality and social
psychology, 80(1), p53-67. Retrieved from
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