This study examined Virginia's statewide implementation of threat assessment in its public schools, identifying how threat assessment teams distinguish serious from non-serious threats.
Threat assessment has been widely endorsed as a school safety practice, but there is little research on its implementation. In 2013, Virginia became the first state to mandate student threat assessment in its public schools. The sample consisted of 1,865 threat assessment cases reported by 785 elementary, middle, and high schools. Students ranged from pre-K to grade 12, including 74.4 percent male, 34.6 percent receiving special education services, 51.2 percent White, 30.2 percent Black, 6.8 percent Hispanic, and 2.7 percent Asian. Survey data were collected from school-based teams to measure student demographics, threat characteristics, and assessment results. Logistic regression indicated that threat assessment teams were more likely to identify a threat as serious if it was made by a student above the elementary grades (odds ratio 0.57; 95 lower and upper bound 0.42-0.78), a student receiving special education services (1.27; 1.00 -1.60), involved battery (1.61; 1.20 -2.15), homicide (1.40; 1.07-1.82), or weapon possession (4.41; 2.80 -6.96), or targeted an administrator (3.55; 1.73-7.30). Student race and gender were not significantly associated with a serious threat determination. The odds ratio that a student would attempt to carry out a threat classified as serious was 12.48 (5.15-30.22). These results provide new information on the nature and prevalence of threats in schools using threat assessment that can guide further work to develop this emerging school safety practice. Virginia public schools are using threat assessment teams to prevent student violence. Based on a sample of 1,865 threat cases, this study found that teams were more likely to identify a threat as serious if the student was above the elementary grades and receiving special education services; if the threat involved battery, homicide, or weapon possession; or targeted an administrator. Although few threats were attempted, a threat judged to be serious was about 12 times more likely to be attempted than a threat not judged to be serious. 3 tables, 1 figure, and 24 references (publisher abstract modified)
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