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Preparing for and Responding to Threats and Violence - Breakout Session, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety

On February 16-18, 2021, the National Institute of Justice hosted the Virtual Conference on School Safety: Bridging Research to Practice to Safeguard Our Schools. This video includes the following presentations: 

Preliminary Data from a Statewide Anonymous Tip Line and Multidisciplinary Teams in Nevada, Al Stein-Seroussi

In 2018, the State of Nevada launched SafeVoice, a statewide anonymous tip line for students to report events that might be harmful to them, their peers, or their school community. Harmful events are far ranging and include suicide threats, bullying, harassment, depression, and planned school attacks. The goal of SafeVoice is to provide a mechanism for students to inform responsible adults who can then prevent harmful events before they happen or to stop them from continuing. Although often referred to simply as a "tip line," SafeVoice also requires each school to have a multidisciplinary team (MDT) available around the clock to respond to tips. The Nevada Department of Education administers and oversees SafeVoice; the Nevada Department of Public Safety operates a 24/7 communication center that receives tips from students and then disseminates them to the appropriate local school district or law enforcement agency. SafeVoice is funded primarily by a grant from NIJ (2016-CK-BX-0007) to Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation which is responsible for all research components. During this session, we will present program data about the volume and type of tips and preliminary data from our MDT survey about the experiences of those who receive and respond to tips.

Student Threat Assessment as a Safe and Supportive Prevention Strategy, Dewey Cornell

In 2013, Virginia became the first state to mandate student threat assessment in its public schools and in recent years many other states have required or encouraged its use. This project examined the statewide use of threat assessment in Virginia and identified ways to improve training and implementation. In this presentation we explain why student threat assessment must be distinguished from other kinds of threat assessment. We report some of the difficulties in statewide implementation of threat assessment and describe our development and testing of an online educational program for students, parents, and staff to encourage support for threat assessment. Next, we present outcomes for a sample of 1,865 cases assessed in 785 schools. As expected, threat assessment produced low rates of disciplinary and legal outcomes. Furthermore, there were no statistically significant differences for Black, Hispanic, and White students. These findings reflect the potential for threat assessment to provide an alternative to zero tolerance that is less punitive and more equitable. Finally, we describe next steps for future research on this rapidly growing violence prevention strategy.

Evaluation of the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System to Improve School Safety, Justin Heinze and Hsing-Fang Hsieh

Background. Anonymous reporting systems (ARS) have the potential to improve school safety through facilitating reporting and improving school climate. Yet, they have not been evaluated with experimental designs for either the effects they have on student reporting behavior and attitudes or school violence.

Method. We seek to understand the effectiveness of the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SS-ARS) program in improving school climate and preventing school violence by examining underlying psychosocial factors in a cluster randomized control trial among students in 19 middle schools in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Using repeated survey responses, we compared students' self-efficacy and intention to report warning signs, perceptions of school climate, and exposure to violence at school in treatment versus control student populations.

Results. Results indicate that SS-ARS improved both short-term (3-month) and longer-term (9-month) outcomes for students to report warning signs. The intervention had positive effects on students' perceptions of school climate and reduced students' reports of violence exposure at school.

Conclusion. Our findings suggest that the implementation of ARS systems can be effective when they include ARS training that is integrated into a more comprehensive approach to improve school climate.

This is Not a Drill: Student and Staff Comprehension of Emergency Operations Protocols for School Violence, Josh Hendrix

School shootings in the past few decades have raised questions around how schools prepare for active shooter situations and the extent to which they are ready to respond to an emergency. We reviewed safety plans from 10 middle and high schools, assessed variation in lockdown protocols, examined staff and student comprehension of procedures, identified areas of strong and weak mastery, and highlighted characteristics associated with comprehension.

Date Published: February 16, 2021