University of Virginia researchers found that Florida school threat assessment has been “widely, but not uniformly, successful,” Education Week reports. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and used a review of reports of more than 23,000 student threat assessments in Florida from the 2021-2022 academic year. Threat assessment is a formal process through which a team of educators, student support personnel, and school administrators analyze reports of threatening student behavior, determine their severity, and set a plan in place to respond. Students carried out about 6% of the threats reported in the data. Less than 1% of overall threats resulted in serious injuries. 90% of students who underwent threat assessment remained at their original schools. “What we found in Florida is that, on a very large scale, we got good results,” said Dewey Cornell, a professor at the University of Virginia who co-authored the report.
The report had five main findings. It found that states and districts need better data to ensure threat assessment is used fairly and consistently. Most student threats were deemed “transient,” meaning educators deemed students had no serious intent to act. Counseling and parent meetings were common responses to threats. There were also disparities by students’ race and disability status; while Black students made up about 21% of enrollment in the studied districts, they counted for about 37% of students referred for threat assessments. Black and Hispanic students were more likely to face a school placement change or suspension than their white peers after a threat assessment. Researchers found that students with disabilities appeared to be more likely than their peers to be referred for threat assessment. Further research on school threat assessment is forthcoming.