The Chino Valley school district will change how it handles threats made by special needs students after the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) ruled in April that the district’s threat assessment policy was discriminatory.

The decision followed a complaint filed by a parent of an 8-year-old special needs student who became upset while meeting with his principal, according to a news release from Disability Rights California.

Chino Valley school district director of communications Andi Johnson said the district will work with OCR to update the district’s policies and provide training to employees as part of the resolution agreement.

After the student told the principal he would harm her, the district gave him a homicide threat screening and a referral to an outside agency for a homicide threat assessment, according to the news release.

Threat assessments are a process that schools use to distinguish transient threats such as jokes or temporary expressions of anger from actual threats, according to the news release. 

OCR concluded that the district’s threat assessment policies violate the “direct threat” standard in federal law. Under this standard, districts performing threat assessments on students with disabilities must consider whether the student poses a significant risk and whether the risk can be addressed by providing services to the student.

The parent stated in the news release that her son still struggles to make friends or even speak up sometimes, because he fears he will either get in trouble or get bullied. “He also doesn’t want to talk to his teachers because he is scared they won’t believe him,” she stated.

According to the news release, the resolution with OCR requires the district to document the child’s disability during the threat assessment and consider whether the behaviors are disability-related; gather input from parents and other members of the child’s individual education (IEP) or 504 plan which provide accommodations for students who have disabilities; and schedule a meeting afterwards to discuss whether the child needs more support.

The district must also consider whether accommodations or services to the child could address the risk. 

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