After a number of school shootings researchers were looking for ways to conduct useful threat assessments in schools (Cornell, 2010). The effort from the University of Virginia led to threat assessment teams using a seven-step method. The team leader, usually the school principal, handles the first few steps. The lead makes a decision based on data collection if the threat is substantive and which time the team begins working with the team lead. The developers of these guidelines ran field tests with the program. Results of the Virginia Threat Assessment Guide field test illustrated the benefit over zero-tolerance policies. In particular, during the field test of the 188 threat cases an arrest was made in six cases, an expulsion occurred in three and half (94 cases) were suspended (Cornell, 2010). The second field study, conducted in a large urban school, revealed similar results.
Threat assessment offers a sense of safety and helps to identify if a student actually poses a threat. In the assessment the team must gather as much information about the adolescent as possible, examine the current situation, and who else may be involved, either as helpers or targets. It is important that these assessments focus on the individual in question and not on a list of characteristics of previous offenders. As has been seen, many of these characteristics can be identified in non-violent persons and many attackers had no psychological history that could have indicated the attack would happen. While the goal of threat assessment is to identify warning behavior in an effort to stop an attack, there have been a multitude of types of warning behaviors to look for which make this a difficult task (Meloy, Hoffmann, Gul...
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...an attack. For instance, some attacks can lead to copycat threats or behavior (Cornell, 2011). While not all copycat threats result in another attack, they can increase fear and school disruption. This is a time School Psychologists not only need to help continue with threat management, but to also implement groups or programs to help alleviate fear in the school and community.
Additionally, School Psychologists should remain available, both after an attack and after threat of an attack, for those who may need additional services. While most School Psychologists job responsibilities, do not regularly include counseling services in these types of situations it is important for students to be able to speak with a trained support person. School Psychologists should have on hand a list of outside sources they can refer to or bring in for an assembly if necessary.
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