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Toolkit released to guide schools in training, implementation and evaluation of threats

Crystal Graham
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Two University of Virginia professors have worked to create a new toolkit to provide guidance to schools on implementing behavioral threat assessment using multidisciplinary teams.

The toolkit, released on Wednesday, was produced by the National Center for School Safety at the University of Michigan and co-authored by UVA professors Dewey Cornell and Jennifer Maeng.

“Following the example set in Virginia, more and more states are requiring their schools to use a violence prevention strategy called behavioral threat assessment,” said Cornell, a professor of education at the UVA School of Education and Human Development and a leading expert on threat assessment and school safety.

UVA is a partner institution of the National Center for School Safety which supports schools, districts, mental health agencies, police departments, community-based organizations and state, local and tribal agencies across the country to implement evidence-based school safety programs.

More than 60 percent of U.S. schools report they have a threat assessment team. The increase in teams has created a need for national standards of practice.

The toolkit will provide guidance for effective training, implementation and evaluation of threat assessment teams.

The toolkit is designed to support schools in their efforts to implement evidence-based methods to assess and respond to threats, to prevent problem situations from escalating, and to avoid overreacting to threats that are not serious, all while protecting students’ rights.

Research conducted by Cornell and Maeng in Virginia and Florida schools demonstrated the success of a well-implemented threat assessment program in reducing or eliminating disparities in disciplinary and law enforcement outcomes associated with race and disability status. It features an emphasis on ensuring threat assessment protocols are implemented fairly and equitably for students of marginalized groups, especially students of color and students with disabilities.

“Our guide helps schools consider who should be on their threat assessment team, how often they should meet and what should be covered in those meetings,” said Maeng, a research associate professor with the UVA School of Education and Human Development’s Youth Violence Project. “It also includes recommended steps for evaluating the effectiveness of threat assessment teams and making sure it has fair and equitable outcomes across student groups.”

View the toolkit online.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.