Title

Threat Assessment: Lessons Learned and New Directions

Location

Plimsoll

Strand #1

Safety & Violence Prevention

Relevance

The proposed presentation, Threat Assessment: Lessons Learned and New Directions, is directly related to the “HANDS” conference strand because it focuses on preventing violence through thorough assessment and ensuring safety for all children and youth (especially for high-poverty populations).

Brief Program Description

More than ever, schools are concerned about students’ potential for violence. They have a responsibility to reduce and manage risk through threat assessment, which can be complicated by the developmental nature of students’ reasoning skills and often impulsive actions. This presentation will help school teams identify potentially dangerous behavior patterns, utilize a decision-making model, and implement an effective safety plan.

Summary

There have been many lessons learned in recent history as to what can happen if schools are not safe and personnel are unprepared for violence on campus. Participants in this session will be presented with a brief history of traditional threat assessment procedures, highlighting some of their limitations. For example, some research has found the use of zero-tolerance policies leads to an increase in subsequent suspensions and higher drop-out rates for students (Cornell, 2015). In response to the headlines regarding school safety, millions of dollars are spent each year on fortifications for school buildings and hiring security personnel; however, recent studies have shown that increasing security infrastructure does not increase the level of safety, but instead, lessen student’s sense of welfare (Bachman, Randolph, & Brown, 2011). These resources could be used to train school counselors and other professionals on effective, developmentally-appropriate threat assessment to create a safe school environment. Tailoring the assessment to the adolescent is imperative due to the slow formation of the prefrontal cortex, which often leads to impulsive decisions without an appreciation for consequence. Participants will become familiar with the “7-Step Decision Making Model” of the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines, which can be considered a “new direction” in the field of threat assessment. These guidelines were recognized as an evidence-based practice in 2013 and have been implemented throughout the state of Virginia with marked success (Cornell, 2015). In addition to exploring the history of threat assessment, and examining a new decision-making model, participants will also be provided with the “take home” learning opportunity to build a multi-disciplinary team for school-based threat assessment practice.

Evidence

The Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines (VSTAG) became recognized as an evidence-based practice in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices in 2013. School systems that have implemented the VSTAG reported 15% fewer short-term suspensions and 25% fewer long-term suspensions. There were lower reported suspension rates for both African-American and Caucasian students, which strengthens the multicultural implications for the VSTAG (Cornell, 2015). These guidelines have also been subjected to randomized controlled studies from kindergarten through grade 12 and adopted as the primary threat assessment approach throughout the state of Virginia (Cornell, 2015; Cornell, Allen, & Fan, 2012). Though preliminary, these promising findings introduce the possibility of a greater systemic approach to identifying potentially dangerous behavior patterns and responding accordingly.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Mandy Perryman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi. She also serves as a Mental Health Counselor at the Child Advocacy and Play Therapy Institute. In addition to her role as a Counselor Educator, Dr. Perryman has been working with at-risk children, their families, and school systems in Louisiana, New Mexico, Virginia, and Mississippi for the last twenty years.

Mr. Paul Pohto is a M.Ed. student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of Mississippi. He is also a recipient of the 2015 UM Graduate Student Research Grant, awarded to conduct and present research in the area of threat assessment. In addition to his graduate training, Mr. Pohto volunteers at the Child Advocacy and Play Therapy Institute and tutors at-risk youth.

Mr. Brian Adams is a M.Ed. student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of Mississippi. In addition to his academic pursuits, Mr. Adams works with adolescents and young adults at a substance abuse treatment facility. He continues to focus on this population with his research on identity formation through social media and his service as a mentor.

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

3-8-2016 1:00 PM

End Date

3-8-2016 2:15 PM

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Mar 8th, 1:00 PM Mar 8th, 2:15 PM

Threat Assessment: Lessons Learned and New Directions

Plimsoll

More than ever, schools are concerned about students’ potential for violence. They have a responsibility to reduce and manage risk through threat assessment, which can be complicated by the developmental nature of students’ reasoning skills and often impulsive actions. This presentation will help school teams identify potentially dangerous behavior patterns, utilize a decision-making model, and implement an effective safety plan.