Responding to Student Threats and Imposing Discipline

Volume 30, No. 2

One of the most difficult tasks school administrators face is how to respond quickly and effectively to student threats against the school community. Increasingly, student threats are being communicated via email and social media. Although some student speech may be entitled to First Amendment protection, the Supreme Court has made clear that true threats are not protected speech. Under Maine law, school administrators have certain tools available to them to help them investigate, respond to, and, where appropriate, discipline students when a threat is received. Although each incident involving a student threat is distinct and must ultimately be evaluated and responded to based on its unique facts, this article will briefly discuss the available tools and potential processes and procedures that generally need to be implemented on a very short timeline, to allow school administrators and school boards to respond effectively to student threats.

Responding to and Investigating Student Threats
In the wake of recent school shooting incidents, schools have unfortunately experienced an increase in the number of student threats they have received. The first thing that school administrators should do if they discover or receive a student threat is to immediately implement the appropriate safety procedures as set forth in the school unit’s comprehensive emergency management plan, and promptly notify their local law enforcement agency. After the school administration has taken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the school community, they should immediately commence an investigation into the matter. If the threat was anonymous, the administration should work closely with law enforcement to determine the origin of the threat. If the identity of the student making the threat is known and the administration determines…To continue reading, visit

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