Evidence-Based Threat Assessment for Schools since 2002
In 2002, Professor Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia led a team of educators and researchers to develop a practical and effective set of guidelines for schools to use in responding to threats of violence. The resulting model was described in the 2006 manual, Guidelines for Responding to Student Threats of Violence. After years of development and research, this model, the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines (VSTAG), was formally recognized as an evidence-based program by the federal government's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices in 2013. Over the past 17 years, VSTAG has been widely disseminated in the United States and Canada. No other model of threat assessment has demonstrated effectiveness in controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals. In 2018 we published an updated manual, Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines (CSTAG).
Although schools have a relatively low rate of violent crime in comparison to other settings, concerns about school shootings have stimulated increased school security and use of zero tolerance discipline. School threat assessment is a more proactive and flexible violence prevention practice that is used when an individual threatens to commit a violent act or engages in threatening behavior. Threat assessment includes the identification, assessment, and management of threats with the goal of resolving conflicts or problems before they escalate into violence. The Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines allows school‐based teams to follow a decision‐tree process to resolve less serious, transient threats quickly while focusing greater attention on more serious, substantive threats. Our threat assessment forms are freely available here.
Our group has extensive experience conducting threat assessment training for schools. All of us are practicing psychologists with substantial experience in school and clinical settings working with children, youth, and adults. We understand the importance of a developmental and systems perspective to help school staff make good decisions that both maintain school safety and help students be successful.
Review the documentation on this website and use the contact form at the bottom of this page to learn more about our training services.
PO Box 6929
Charlottesville, VA 22906 USA
Why Threat Assessment?
prevalence of School violence
School shootings have generated a widespread misconception that schools are not safe. On the contrary, national crime statistics show that school-age children are safer from shootings at school than almost any other location. However, there are many situations where students threaten to commit a violent act, and educators must make every effort to keep students and staff safe. Educators do not want to over-react to student threats that are not serious, yet they must recognize and take action in response to a serious threat. This is why leading authorities in education, law enforcement, and mental health recommend that schools use systematic approach called threat assessment.
prevention is Possible
Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, schools have spent billions of dollars in security measures to make their schools "hard targets" against shootings. However, prevention must start before there is a gunman at the school door. Prevention means building a supportive school climate, helping students in distress, and taking appropriate protective action before a conflict or problem escalates into violence. Schools do not need to predict who is going to commit a violent act if they focus on identifying and helping students in need of assistance. Our model of threat assessment is a problem-solving approach that involves both assessment and intervention to prevent violence.
Threat Assessment Is effective
Our research, conducted through the University of Virginia and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, shows that schools using threat assessment have resolved thousands of threats without serious injury. Moreover, schools using our model of threat assessment have substantial reductions in the use of school suspension and lower rates of bullying. On school climate surveys, students and teachers report feeling safer than in schools not using threat assessment. Finally, school staff representing administration, instruction, mental health, and law enforcement all report high levels of satisfaction, knowledge, and motivation regarding the use of threat assessment after attending our workshops.
Contact us for information about fees, scheduling and logistics.