This article summarizes the research on threat assessment as a tool for school security and discusses policy implications of this research.
The article first notes the difficulty of predicting that someone is going to carry out a school shooting and recommends threat assessment as a more promising violence prevention strategy. In schools, a multidisciplinary threat assessment team investigates reported threats and develops responses that are calibrated to the seriousness of the threat and the student's educational needs. Researchers have found that school teams have been able to resolve thousands of student threats with no serious acts of violence, yet permitting the majority of students to return to school. Controlled studies have found that schools using this approach can reduce the use of school suspension and improve student and teacher perceptions of school climate. The author argues that threat assessment represents a fundamental shift in the risk assessment field away from the pursuit of predictive accuracy toward a broader approach to the prevention of violence by helping troubled individuals. Threat assessment offers schools a proactive alternative to reactive practices such as zero tolerance discipline and costly investment in building security measures. (publisher abstract modified)