Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Abraham S. Fischler College of Education

Advisor

Tina Jaeckle

Committee Member

James Pann

Committee Member

Grace Telesco

Abstract

Law enforcement agencies and school systems face the critically important task of preventing attacks of targeted school violence and providing safe environments for students, faculty, and staff. The tragic results of past school shooting incidents have caused law enforcement agencies to work collaboratively with educators to develop strategies to reduce violent attacks.

Numerous examples from previous school shooting incidents show that shooters exhibited certain warning signs before the attack, and those signs went unaddressed. The student threat assessment process was developed to help educators and law enforcement members recognize the warning signs and take preemptive action before violence occurs. Threat assessment is a deductive process that involves identifying individual students who exhibit warning signs, gathering as much information about their behavior as possible, and using that information to determine if the student requires psychological or emotional intervention.

To guide educators and law enforcement members who may be tasked with preventing school shootings, this dissertation clarifies the process of school-based threat assessment and highlights the factors that affect decision-making. A qualitative method was used to gather data from school administrators and law enforcement personnel who have experience in the student threat assessment process.

The resulting data explains the behaviors that generate concern, the interaction between the schools and the police department when investigating those concerns, and the methods used to help the students and prevent violence. The composite data also provides insight into the external factors or conditions which might benefit or hinder the threat assessment process. This knowledge will aid other educators and law enforcement members who may be tasked with conducting a student threat assessment.

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