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Statewide Implementation of Threat Assessment in Virginia K-12 Schools

Abstract

In 2013, VA became the first state to mandate the use of threat assessment teams in its K-12 public schools. We provide an account of the development and adaptation of threat assessment as a school safety practice and research on the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines in VA schools. We describe the state law and the question of whether suicide assessment should be considered a form of threat assessment. We then describe research on the statewide implementation of threat assessment and summarize results indicating overall positive outcomes for schools who are actively engaged in threat assessment, but qualitative findings from a needs assessment identified team training gaps as well as a need to orient the larger school community to the threat assessment process. We describe a series of online programs to educate students, parents, teachers, and other school staff about the threat assessment process. In conclusion, this paper presents some lessons learned in the statewide implementation of threat assessment as a safe and effective violence prevention strategy.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Dr. Dewey Cornell led this research group and is the principal developer of the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines.

  2. 2.

    VA law does not prescribe a specific model of threat assessment but requires that any model be consistent with the model policies developed by the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety. The Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines developed at the University of Virginia is recognized in the model policies document as one such model.

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Acknowledgments

We thank members of our research team including Anna Grace Burnette, Pooja Datta, Frances Huang, Yuane Jia, Timothy Konold, Patrick Meyer, and Shelby Stohlman. The project was conducted in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

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Correspondence to Dewey Cornell.

Ethics declarations

This study was funded by Grant No. NIJ 2014-CK-BX-0004 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The principal author of this report (Cornell) is the primary developer of the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines (VSTAG), one of the threat assessment models used in VA schools.

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Cornell, D., Maeng, J. Statewide Implementation of Threat Assessment in Virginia K-12 Schools. Contemp School Psychol 22, 116–124 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-017-0146-x

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Keywords

  • School discipline
  • School safety
  • School violence
  • Threat assessment
  • Violence prevention