Threat Assessment in College Settings
Dewey Cornell, Ph.D., 2010
This article was written by Dewey Cornell, Ph.D. and published in Change magazine in 2010. In 2007, the landscape of campus safety changed abruptly with the Virginia Tech shooting and the subsequent wave of anonymous threats in colleges across the country. It seemed that the school shootings that have plagued K-12 schools were now advancing to colleges and universities. In response to the tragedy, the Virginia state legislature mandated that every public institution of higher education establish a “threat assessment team.” Although it is important for colleges to have a well-designed plan for first-responders, a comprehensive approach to campus safety should not be limited to security measures, warning systems, or crisis-response plans that are designed to react to violence. Threat assessment is a form of violence prevention that should be undertaken well before a gunman appears in the parking lot. The history of many school shootings reveals that the attack was preceded by threatening statements and behavior that aroused the concern of others weeks or months in advance.