Evaluating Risk for Targeted Violence in Schools: Comparing Risk Assessment, Threat Assessment, and Other Approaches

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In the wake of recent school shootings, fear over violence in schools has prompted increased requests for psychologists, educators, and law enforcement professionals to assist in preventing future school violence incidents.We attempt to lay a foundation for developing effective assessment and prevention approaches by first distinguishing planned school-based attacks from other forms of school and youth violence. We then review the three assessment approaches that have been advocated and used in some jurisdictions (profiling, guided professional judgment, automated decision-making) and demonstrate why they are inappropriate—and potentially harmful—in preventing planned school-based attacks.We then describe the contours of the threat assessment approach, developed by the U.S. Secret Service to prevent assassinations, and examine its utility for responding to communications or behaviors of concern that students may present in school settings.

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Psychology in the Schools, v. 38, issue 2, p. 157-172