• School Districts Must Establish a Threat Assessment Team for Each School Beginning with the 2023-24 School Year  


    School safety has always been a major concern for school administrators. The rise in incidents of gun violence at schools has been extremely troubling and disheartening. During the period from 1990 to 1999, there were 80 incidents of gun violence at schools.[1] Each year since that time, the number of such incidents has grown. From 2020 to the present, there have been over 100 incidents of gun violence at schools, with the most recent deadly shooting incident occurring on May 24, 2022, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, during which 26 individuals were killed.[2] All told, since 1990, there have been 382 incidents of school shootings which has resulted in over 300 deaths.[3]

    In order to try to identify students who pose a potential safety risk to the school community, on August 8, 2022, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Assembly Bill Nos. 4075 and 3229.[4] This new law, codified at N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.4 to -43.6, became effective immediately, but applies to the 2023-2024 school year.[5]

    Pursuant to the new law, every board must develop and adopt a policy for the establishment of a threat assessment team at each school.[6] The threat assessment team is responsible for assisting staff members in

    • “identifying students of concern, assessing those students’ risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities;” and
    • “delivering intervention strategies to manage the risk of harm for students who pose a potential safety risk, to prevent targeted violence in the school, and ensure a safe and secure school environment…”[7]

    The threat assessment team must have a multidisciplinary membership and should generally be composed of the following four or five individuals:

    1. a school psychologist, school counselor, school social worker, or other school employee with expertise in student counseling;
    2. a teaching staff member;
    3. a school principal or other senior school administrator;
    4. a safe schools resource officer or school employee who serves as a school liaison to law enforcement; and
    5. the school safety specialist .  .  . in the event that the school safety specialist is not already a school administrator or school employee [already] required to be a part of the threat assessment team pursuant this section.[8]

    The law provides that the threat assessment team may add other school employees as members of the team, and the team may consult with other school employees as part of the threat assessment process as deemed necessary.[9]

    The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), in consultation with State law enforcement agencies and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, is required to develop guidelines for districts regarding the establishment and training of threat assessment teams.[10]  NJDOE will provide training through the New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy and, in turn, school safety specialists in each district will provide training to school staff in accordance with the guidelines developed by the NJDOE.[11]  Each member of the threat assessment team must undergo training provided by the school safety specialist which must include information on “adverse childhood experiences, childhood trauma, cultural competency, and implicit bias.”[12]

    The policy for the establishment of the threat assessment team must be aligned with the NJDOE guidelines and must include, but is not limited to, the following elements:

    1. guidance for students, teachers, and all school staff regarding the recognition of threatening or aberrant behavior in a student that may represent a threat to the school community;
    2. the designation of members of the school community to whom threatening behavior shall be reported;
    3. the development and implementation of policies concerning the assessment and intervention of students whose behavior poses a threat to the safety of the school community, and appropriate actions to be taken, including available social, developmental, and law enforcement resources, for students whose behavior is identified as posing a threat to the safety of the school community;
    4. coordination and consultation with the school safety specialist…; and
    5. a policy that the threat assessment team shall not disclose or disseminate any information obtained during their assessment beyond the purpose for which the information was provided to the threat assessment team, except that the threat assessment team is authorized to disclose the information to applicable agencies to pursue appropriate action pursuant to paragraph (3) [above] for any student whose behavior is identified as posing a threat to the safety of the school community.[13]

    The new law specifically addresses the assessment of students with a disability who may pose a threat to the school community. It provides that when the threat assessment team is assessing a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or §504 plan, it must consult with the IEP team or §504 team to determine whether the student’s behavior is a threat to school safety and is being properly addressed in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations.[14]

    In light of the new law, school administrators should await the guidance from the NJDOE.  Once the guidance is released, school officials should begin preparing an appropriate policy consistent with the law, and ensure the designated school safety specialist obtains the required training through the New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy.  Following the board’s adoption of the policy, the threat assessment team members should be designated and undergo the required training by the school safety specialist. School officials should confer with the board attorney, policy consultant, and school safety specialist for questions regarding the implementation and adoption of the required policy and the required training.


    [1] Ballotpedia, United States School Shootings and Firearm Incidents, 1990-Present available on the Internet at https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_school_shootings_and_firearm_incidents,_1990-present

    [2] See id.

    [3] See id.

    [4] Pub. L. 2022, ch. 83.

    [5] Id. at §4 (“This act shall take effect immediately and shall first apply to the first full school year next following the date of enactment.”).

    [6] N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.4(a).

    [7] N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.4(a).

    [8] N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.4(b).

    [9] Id.

    [10] N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.6.

    [11] Id.

    [12] N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.5(c).

    [13] N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.5(a).

    [14] N.J.S.A. 18A:17-43.5(b).