Institutions of higher education are moving beyond threat assessment teams to a more holistic approach to identifying, assessing, and managing threats. A Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) is a multidisciplinary, cross-functional team that meets regularly and receives reports of concerning or disruptive behaviors and threats of violence. As a centralized point of contact and repository of information, the BIT is also able to track trends and detect patterns over time.
BITs are Proactive, Caring, and Preventative
Once a report is received, the BIT is charged with investigating, assessing, and responding to the concern, which may include conducting a threat assessment to determine and mitigate risk of violence, initiating necessary interventions to manage the behavior, and coordinating resources and follow-up. Because a BIT often receives reports of concerning behaviors before a threat is made, BITs are intended to be proactive, caring, and preventative, but not punitive. The goal is to ensure that everyone is safe and has the opportunity to succeed.
BITs are Collaborative
By working collaboratively and in an interdisciplinary manner, a BIT reduces the tendency for departments to function and communicate in silos and enables a more inter-connected approach to threat assessment/threat management and response to behaviors of concern. For example, receiving reports from two professors that a student is having difficulty in more than one class, a report from their roommate that they are concerned the student is suicidal, and a report from an advisor that the student just experienced a death in the family and is falling behind in class, allows the BIT to have a more comprehensive view of the student and to offer the student the earliest possible intervention, support, and resources before the situation potentially escalates and signs of an imminent threat are evident.
BITs are Multidisciplinary
Depending on the particular concern that has been reported, you may include additional individuals to serve on your BIT on an ad hoc basis. However, core team members in a higher education environment typically include:
- Designated BIT chair
- Case manager
- Law Enforcement
- Campus Counseling or Health Services
- Student Affairs
- Academic Affairs
- Disability Services
- Veterans Affairs
BITs are Well-Trained
In order to be most effective, BITs should receive highly specialized, regular training and professional development on principles of threat assessment and threat management, the use of data-driven rubrics, case management, high risk behaviors and warning signs, suicide prevention and intervention, recognizing and responding to mental health problems, and more.
Typical Concerns That are Reported to BITs
Understandably, the most severe and significant BIT report is one regarding threatening or dangerous behavior. Faculty, staff, and students want to be sure that a person of concern does not become the assailant in the next school shooting. However, there are other behaviors and situations that are commonly reported to BITs. They include:
- Extreme Depression
- Suicidal thoughts or intent
- Disruptive or disturbing behaviors
- Excessive or inappropriate anger
- Extreme anxiety or emotional outbursts
- Overwhelmed by personal or family situations
While a mental health diagnosis alone does not necessarily warrant a referral to your BIT, information about mental health problems assists the team in assessing the concern or threat and identifying appropriate, effective interventions, resources, follow up, and management.
BITs are most often found at institutions of higher education and the number of them is growing. However, a behavioral intervention team model is applicable and should also be considered in K-12 schools, workplaces, faith-based institutions, and community organizations.
National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (2014). Behavioral Intervention Teams. Retrieved on May 12, 2017 from http://nabita.org/behavioral-intervention-teams/
Dr. Peggy Mitchell Clarke is a clinical psychologist and retired psychology professor who has lived in Denver, Colorado for almost two decades. In the aftermath of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, Dr. Clarke was instrumental in developing and facilitating active shooter response and violence prevention training for all faculty and staff at Community College of Aurora (CCA). Dr. Clarke currently serves on CCA’s Behavioral Intervention Team and consults in the areas of mental health, classroom management, and safety.