Effective July 1, the commonwealth of Virginia now requires local school boards to establish threat assessment teams in their schools similar to those required for Virginia’s public colleges and universities. Virginia is the first state to require such measures.
The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services has tapped University of Virginia education professor Dewey Cornell to train these threat assessment teams.
“One of the recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on School and Campus Safety was that our K-12 schools institute threat assessment teams, and the General Assembly enacted legislation making this a state requirement,” Cornell said. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell appointed Cornell, a clinical psychologist and Linda K. Bunker Professor of Education in the Curry School of Education, to the Governor’s Task Force on School and Campus Safety in January.
On Tuesday, Cornell facilitated an introductory workshop on threat assessment as a part of the 2013 Virginia School and Campus Safety Training Forum and State D.A.R.E. Conference, held at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. The workshop was the first in a series of training sessions that Cornell will lead statewide before the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, which the public and media are welcome to attend.
The remaining workshops are Aug. 14 at New River Community College in Dublin, Aug. 20 at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyer’s Cave, Aug. 27 at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, and Aug. 29 at Richard Bland College in Petersburg. More details about them are here.
“Although most public schools in Virginia report that they already have threat assessment teams, these training workshops are designed to serve schools that do not currently have a team or have new staff who need to be trained,” Cornell said.
Since developing a model for threat assessment in public schools in 2001, Cornell has conducted research and trainings that equip K-12 educators and administrators with preventive procedures for increasing school safety, short of enacting so-called “zero-tolerance” measures.
In contrast to zero- tolerance policies, “threat assessment gives school authorities a safe, practical, and effective way to address threatening behavior by students,” Cornell said. “In addition, threat assessment often leads to interventions that resolve student conflicts, bullying and other problems before they escalate into violence.” More than 2700 schools in 14 states and Canada use Cornell’s model as a framework for their threat assessment teams. In spring 2013, the federal government’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices listed the model.
Cornell’s research interests include forensic clinical psychology, youth violence prevention and school safety. He directs the Virginia Youth Violence Project and serves as an associate director of Youth-Nex, the U.Va. Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, and as a faculty associate of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy. Cornell joined U.Va.’s faculty in 1986.
— by Dana Cypress