Preventing School Violence in America

crime scene with school busThe National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) of the United States Secret Service released an Operational Guide on Preventing Targeted School Violence called Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model (“The Guide”).

The Guide highlights the need to work systematically through a threat assessment model to understand the risk a school faces for targeted violence. The NTAC states that an assessment model is more effective at establishing risk than attacker profiling because

there is no profile of a student attacker. There have been male and female attackers, high-achieving students with good grades as well as poor performers. These acts of violence were committed by students who were loners and socially isolated, and those who were well-liked and popular.1

The threat assessment model can establish a students’ risk for violence because it can provide information about a students’ communications and behavior; stressful events in the students’ life; and, the emotional and mental resources that a student possesses to overcome challenges.

The Guide details eight steps for utilizing the threat assessment model to prevent targeted school violence:

  1. Establish a multidisciplinary threat assessment team to direct and manage the assessment process.
  2. Define behaviors of concern.
  3. Create a reporting mechanism with which individuals or students can report concerning behavior anonymously.
  4. Determine a threshold for involving law enforcement.
  5. Establish assessment procedures identifying sources of information using a community systems approach.
  6. Develop options for managing identified risk.
  7. Encourage and promote positive school environments.
  8. Identify training needs for faculty, staff, teachers, and anyone involved in maintaining school safety.

The Guide recommends that schools develop emergency response plans with input from law enforcement and first responders. These plans should be made available to all local emergency personnel in the event that a violent attack occurs despite measures to prevent one.

An extensive list of resources for improving school safety can be found at the end of the report.

More resources and reports on school violence can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL) featured topic on School Violence. Unregistered users can find the article here, and a media report summarizing The Guide here.


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1 National Threat Assessment Center. (2018). Enhancing school safety using a threat assessment model: An operational guide for preventing targeted school violence. U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security.

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