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The Distinction Between Transient and Substantive Student Threats

NCJ Number
Journal of Threat Assessment and Management Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: 2018 Pages: 4-20
Anna G. Burnette; Pooja Datta; Dewey Cornell
Date Published
17 pages

The Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines (VSTAG) is a threat assessment model that emphasizes distinguishing between substantive threats that are serious and transient threats that are not serious; and this retrospective study examined theinterrater reliability and criterion-related validity of this distinction in a sample of 844 student threat cases from 339 Virginia public schools.


To assess inter-reliability for the transient versus substantive distinction, research coders independently classified a subsample of 148 narratives, achieving classification agreement with schools of 70 percent (k = .53). Logistic regression analyses examined transient and substantive threat differences in threat characteristics and outcomes. Threats were more likely to be classified as substantive when they included warning behaviors (e.g., history of violence, weapon use, leakage, etc.), were made by older students, mentioned the use of a bomb or a knife, and involved threats to harm self as well as others. Although only 2.5 percent of threats were attempted, substantive threats were 36 times more likely to be attempted than transient threats. Substantive threats were more likely to result in out-of-school suspension, change in school placement, and/or legal action. Overall, these findings supported the transient/substantive distinction, but indicated some training needs for school teams. (Publisher Abstract Modified)