School Safety Expert Hosts Threat Assessment Workshop at BRCC - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

School Safety Expert Hosts Threat Assessment Workshop at BRCC

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Educators across the state are using research developed at the University of Virginia to make their schools safer. As of July 1, all are required to create threat assessment teams to address potentially dangerous behavior.

UVA's Dr. Dewey Cornell, an expert in school safety, is currently traveling the state teaching educators how to better manage dangerous behavior. It's part of Virginia's response to last year's school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut - and Cornell says his way works.

"A threat assessment is really a problem-solving approach to violence prevention," said Cornell.

Cornell has had a busy year. In January, he was tapped by Governor Bob McDonnell to serve on a new school and campus safety task force. Many of the group's initial recommendations became law July 1.

"We've had unanimous agreement on almost every one of the recommendations that we've put forward," said Cornell.

One of those recommendations was born out of Cornell's own research at UVA. All schools are now required to implement threat assessment teams, which identify and address potentially dangerous behavior. Cornell says it's better than other "zero tolerance" approaches.

"We try to determine why a student made a threat, what kind of problem can we resolve that underlies the threat and in that way prevent violence from taking place," said Cornell.

Cornell held a workshop at Blue Ridge Community College Tuesday to help educators understand threat assessment.

"We've used it, I like it, I think it works," said Beverly Coltrane, a psychologist for Augusta County Public Schools.

Coltrane says the county has used the threat assessment model for several years - with positive results.

"Not all threats are serious, we don't have to respond in a punitive format every time someone says something that could be perceived as a threat," said Coltrane.

"It reduces school suspension, it helps keep our schools safe, so that's a great step forward," said Cornell.

Cornell has two more threat assessment workshops scheduled this month in Fredericksburg and Petersburg.

He expects the school and campus safety task force to finish its work and submit its final recommendations to the governor and lawmakers sometime this fall.

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