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Behavioral Threat Assessment

James Madison University is dedicated to ensuring the safety of its students, faculty, staff, and visitors, and one avenue the University utilizes to safeguard our community is behavioral threat assessment. Behavioral threat assessment is an evidence-based intervention approach used to identify, assess, and manage behaviors that pose or could potentially pose a risk of targeted violence to the JMU community.

Targeted violence is premeditated, goal-directed behavior with the sole purpose of carrying out a violent attack on identified targets or locations and often results from the interaction of the following four factors:

  • The subject of concern (SOC)
  • The SOC’s potential target(s)
  • The environment
  • Past, current, or anticipated triggers; often referred to as precipitating events.

These types of attacks are rarely spontaneous, often involving days, weeks, months, or even years of planning; they normally begin with a grievance, and if left unattended, can result in a fixation and ideation resulting in planning and preparation to carry out an act of targeted violence. There are various observable behaviors associated with these stages of planning and preparation that indicate the SOC needs assistance, which lays the foundation for intervention by the threat assessment team.

The list below, labeled "What to Report" identifies risk factors that may indicate a potential subject of concern (SOC) and applies to anyone located on or associated with the JMU campus. Please note the context of behaviors is crucial, and it is not always possible to know the significance of a single behavior or factor taken out of context. Also, one isolated behavior does not necessarily dictate a reason for concern. Therefore, please use the list below as a guide in consideration of reporting, and the team will determine if there is a potential for harm.

What to Report

This is not a comprehensive list.

  • Grievance into fixation: grievance from the SOC’s point of view mandates resolution, normally to assuage perceived shame or embarrassment, or to regain power or control. The SOC can become fixated on a person or cause, may negatively characterize the individual or group, and often has angry emotional undertones.

  • Desperation and suicidality: the SOC can feel as if they “have no other choice” than to carry out a violent act, and may have convinced themselves they have nothing to lose. This is often associated with depression and suicidal ideation but with the added layer of taking others with them and going out in a “blaze of glory.”

  • Lack of empathy: unwillingness or lack of concern for another’s thoughts and feelings, making their own feelings the primary focus.

  • Motives for violence: revenge-seeking, gaining notoriety, regaining power and control, advancing attention for a cause, or solving a problem.

  • Weapons: acquisition or regained interest in already acquired weapons. Uptick in time spent at the firing range, increased interest in weapons causing the most harm.

  • Pre-attack planning or preparation: behaviors associated with planning an attack, i.e. collecting data, watching patterns of target or law enforcement, acquiring weapons, making a list of targets, or writing a manifesto. Often associated are blame of others, lack of responsibility, “black and white” thinking, refusing to let go of the grievance, and associated shame or humiliation.

  • Authorization (narcissism): making SOC's own feelings and desires foremost with callous disregard for other’s feelings or the consequences of their actions. Exploitation of others and lack of remorse for own misconduct.

  • Paranoia or loss of touch with reality: delusions or hallucinations, inability to distinguish between what is real and what is not, grandiose mood, noncompliance with mental health treatment or recommendations including medication.

  • Sudden or extreme changes in mood or behavior: distinct shift from baseline of normal behavior, often with violent or angry undertones, lack of personal hygiene, changes in eating or sleeping habits, changes in substance use.

  • Ruminating on loss, triggers, precipitating events, anniversaries: recurrent discussion or reliving of past traumatic events, calling attention to anniversaries from their past or as they relate to other acts of targeted violence.

  • Threat: a communication or behavior that indicates an individual poses, or may pose, a danger to the safety of the JMU community through acts of violence or other behavior that could cause harm to self or others. The threat may be expressed verbally, behaviorally, visually, in writing, electronically, or through a variety of other means. 

  • Recent or impending termination, suspension, dismissal; significant performance or conduct that requires administrative or faculty attention

  • Social, educational, or occupational deterioration; loss of interest

  • Unusual or excessive absences

  • Repeated or exacerbated conflicts with peers

  • Intimidating or aggressive behavior

  • Extreme resistance to policy or procedural change

  • Anger problems/alarming behaviors: sudden or explosive outbursts, impulsive reactions, reactions that appear out of proportion to the triggering event, intimidation or bullying, escalation in anger over time, or sudden decrease or absence of previously exhibited anger.

  • Substance abuse: abuse or dependence on alcohol or drugs, violence associated with substance usage, treatment noncompliance history, sudden cessation in certain substance use, and added use of enhancing substances (ADHD medication, anabolic steroid use).

  • Isolation: increasing need to isolate, loss of interest in previous activities or social engagement.

  • Changes in appearance: significant weight loss or gain, lack of hygiene, changes in sleep (excessive or lack of), dirty or unkempt attire. 

  • Stalking: pattern of unwanted interest or following that threatens the safety of the target, repeated attempts to connect with the target that are unwanted or intentionally avoided by the target, including those who have been in previous relationships with the SOC.

  • Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence: history or recent escalation of partner assault, attempted strangulation, stalking, and threatening communication.

There are several ways you can report an incident of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Office. 

  • Click here to access the Title IX online report form, 

  • Call 540-568-5219 during university business hours,

  • Email titleix@jmu.edu

  • Visit our office in the Access and Inclusion Suite on the 4th floor of Holland Yates Hall (formerly Madison Hall) in rooms 4033, 4035, and 4036

Know How to Respond

Active Shooter Emergency

RUN: Leave the area near the gunfire as quickly as possible if you have a safe pathway to do so. Do not go toward the sounds of gunfire. Do not attempt to gather your belongings; leave personal items behind for retrieval later.

If someone is near you that requires assistance, attempt to help them with the understanding this is putting your own safety at risk. If they refuse to do as you instructed, leave them behind and run. If they are an individual with special needs, please attempt to get them to safety along with yourself.

HIDE: If you are unable to run, place yourself somewhere low and out of view. If possible, find a large object that can shield you. When hiding, please leave yourself at least two exits to avoid getting trapped by the active shooter. If you notice the shooter is periodically reloading and you can run further away during that time, do so. If you cannot, stay hidden where you are.

Fight: As a last resort and only out of desperation, fight. If possible, do not confront the offender head-on. Look around for objects you can use to disable the offender such as a fire extinguisher, a heavy book, or a hot drink. Remember even though the offender is armed, they still have vulnerability points so if possible strike them in their eyes, throat, or groin to disable them.

Coming Soon!


If you are transitioning between buildings, find an unlocked building. Once inside lock yourself or barricade yourself in an interior room.

Turn off all lights, immediately silence your cell phones, pull down the blinds, stay silent, and stay out of sight. It is best to hide in a location where you are blocked from any potential gun fire by a secure and heavy object.

Check your phones often for alerts from LiveSafe; message updates will be sent out as new information transpires.

DO NOT open the door for anyone or any reason unless it is a law enforcement officer attempting to enter.

DO NOT leave your secured area until an “All Clear” message is received.

DO NOT return to an area to take pictures or view what transpired during the incident.

What to Report to 911

Once you are in a safe place alert authorities, making sure to note as much information as possible, including:

WHERE the incident was taking place

WHO the offender is or what they looked like, and how many offenders there were

WHAT they were wearing, carrying, and what you heard, including if the offender was saying anything and the firearm sounds

Law Enforcement Response

The JMU Police Department will respond immediately to the area where shots are fired and may be assisted by local law enforcement agencies as needed.


Upon arrival, law enforcement’s primary goal is to stop the active shooter, so they will be focused on locating the offender, and containing and stopping them. They will not stop to assist even if you are injured, so please remain in your secured location, and stay quiet, calm, and out of sight.

Once the threat has been stopped, law enforcement and emergency responders will begin assisting those in need and directing you to a safe location. When you are told to evacuate, please put your hands in the air and follow the person in front of you in the direction instructed by law enforcement.

You will be assigned to go to a triage area to receive medical care, be interviewed, be provided with emergency counseling, and be reunited with loved ones.

The Team

JMU has created a multidisciplinary Threat Assessment Team (in adherence to Virginia Code 23.1-805) comprised of Ex Officio representatives from the Police Department, Dean of Students, Office of Accountability and Restorative Practices, Human Resources, and the Counseling Center. Ad Hoc members including the Office of University Counsel are consulted on an as needed basis. The team meets weekly to discuss identified concerns, evaluate the situation and context, and manage any potential for harm.


Dr. Wendy Rippon

Threat Assessment Analyst


Anthony Seeger, MSC 6810


Mission Statement

The JMU Threat Assessment Team (TAT) is committed to improving community safety through a proactive and coordinated approach to the identification, assessment, intervention, and management of situations that pose or may potentially pose, a threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.

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