unlimited access with print and download

Free

Continue searching

Behavioral Assessment Teams Using Threat Assessment at Flagship Universities in New England

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Daniel D Graney
Abstract:
Incidents of violence on college campuses, although rare, are devastating. In response to the recent spate of shootings, many colleges and universities have followed the best practice recommendations of the U.S. Department of Education (2006) and formed multi-disciplinary behavioral assessment teams. The purpose of these team is to deal with matters of crisis, disturbing behavior, and medical or psychiatric situations involving students, faculty, and/or staff in order to determine needs and appropriate responses (NACUBO, 2008). One preventative approach often employed by these teams is threat assessment. Originally developed by the U.S. Secret Service to evaluate subjects who threatened public officials, threat assessment has evolved into operational activities designed to analyze dangerous situations. Using guidelines based on threat assessment principles, behavioral assessment teams investigate whether an individual has the intent and the means to carry out a threat. It is, however, unclear how many teams members are formally trained in threat assessment or if they follow the techniques and procedures threat assessment principles prescribe. This descriptive-exploratory study investigated behavioral assessment teams at state flagship universities in New England (N = 6). Using a mixed methods approach, the principle research question was addressed: Are there significant differences between the behavioral assessment teams in terms of composition, practices, and responsibilities related to threat assessment? Behavioral assessment team leaders ( N = 6) and team members (N = 28) were surveyed to determine if there is a relationship between levels of training and the functional implementation of threat assessment. Team leaders (N = 6) and executive administrators (N = 4), who were responsible for oversight of the behavioral assessment teams, were interviewed to gather information additional information about team formation, processes, and long-term strategic planning around institutional threat assessment systems. The findings showed that although each team was unique, there were no significant differences in terms of the research variables. However, there was a significant positive correlation between level of training and confidence in using threat assessment among team members. Team variations allowed for a number of recommendations to be made based on the findings and on expert opinions available from the literature.

iv Table of Contents

Acknowledgements/Copyright ................................................ i ii

List of Tables .................................................. ........................ vii

Abstract .................................................. ............................... viii

I. Introduction .................................................. ....................... 1

Problem Statement ................................ .................................... 2

Background of the Study ......................... ................................... 3

Definition of Terms .............................. ....................................... 8

Research Questions .............................. ................................... 10

Methodology ..................................... ...................................... 11

Limitations and Delimitations .................... ................................. 15

Resulting Actions ................................ ..................................... 15

Dissertation Organization ........................ .................................. 16

II. Review of Literature .................................................. ......... 18

Introduction .................................... ....................................... 18

Campus Violence .................................. ................................... 19

Campus Shootings ................................. .................................. 26

Threat Assessment ................................ ................................... 28

Threat Assessment in Educational Settings ........ .......................... 33

Behavioral Assessment Teams ...................... ............................. 38

Conclusion ....................................... ....................................... 45

v

III. Methodology .................................................. .................. 47

Research Design .................................. .................................... 47

Research Questions ............................... ................................... 48

Variable ......................................... ......................................... 49

Participants ..................................... ........................................ 51

Instrumentation .................................. ..................................... 55

Data Collection .................................. ...................................... 61

Data Analysis .................................... ...................................... 65

Summary .......................................... ...................................... 68

IV. Findings .................................................. ........................... 69

Virginia Tech as the Common Theme ................ .......................... 70

Profile of Team Leaders and Teams ................ ............................ 71

Findings by Research Question .................... .............................. 73

Primary Research Question ........................ ............................... 73

Secondary Research Question I .................... ............................. 90

Secondary Research Question II ................... ............................. 93

Analysis of Web-Based Team Information ........... ........................ 94

Summary .......................................... ...................................... 95

V. Summary, Recommendations and Conclusions .................... 96

Introduction ..................................... ....................................... 96

Summary of Major Findings ........................ ............................... 97

Recommendations .................................. ................................ 100

vi Opportunities for Future Research ................ ............................ 115

Conclusion ....................................... ..................................... 116

References .................................................. .......................... 118

Appendixes

Appendix A Team Leader Interview Protocol ........ ...................... 127

Appendix B Executive Administrator Interview Proto col ............... 129

Appendix C Team Leader Questionnaire ............. ....................... 131

Appendix D Team Members Questionnaire ............ ..................... 136

Appendix E E-mail to Participants ................ ............................. 139

Appendix F Consent Form for Interviews ........... ........................ 141

Appendix G Study Findings and Statistical Tables . ...................... 143

vii List of Tables

Table 1 On-Campus Violence Statistics for the Years 2007-20 09 21

Table 2 Web-based Search Results for Team Information 94 on University Websites

Table G1 Team Member Areas Identified by Team Leader 143 Questionnaire

Table G2 Core Team Member Area Identified by Team Leader 144

Questionnaire

Table G3 Team Responsibilities Description From Team Leader 145 Questionnaire

Table G4 Team Practices Description From Team Leader 146 Questionnaire

Table G5 Team Responsibilities Description From Team 147 Leader Questionnaire

Table G6 Comparisons of Team Composition, Practices, and 14 9 Responsibilities From Team Member Questionnaire

Table G7 Functions of Threat Assessment From Team Leader 15 1 Questionnaire

Table G8 Principles of Threat Assessment From Team Leader 15 3 Questionnaire

Table G9 Comparisons of Team Use of Functions of Threat 155 Assessment From Team Member Questionnaire

Table G10 Comparison of Team Use of the Principles of 156 Threat Assessment From Team Member Questionnaire

Table G11 Correlations Between Level of Training and Level 1 57 of Self-Confidence in Using Threat Assessment

Table G12 Web-based Search Results for Team Information 158 on University Websites

viii ABSTRACT

Incidents of violence on college campuses, alt hough rare, are devastating. In response to the recent spate of sho otings, many colleges and universities have followed the best practice recomm endations of the U.S. Department of Education (2006) and formed multi-dis ciplinary behavioral assessment teams. The purpose of these team is to d eal with matters of crisis, disturbing behavior, and medical or psychia tric situations involving students, faculty, and/or staff in order to determi ne needs and appropriate responses (NACUBO, 2008). One preventative approach often employed by these teams is threat assessment.

Originally developed by the U.S. Secret Servic e to evaluate subjects who threatened public officials, threat assessment has evolved into operational activities designed to analyze dangerous situations . Using guidelines based on threat assessment principles, behavioral assessm ent teams investigate whether an individual has the intent and the means to carry out a threat. It is, however, unclear how many teams members are for mally trained in threat assessment or if they follow the techniques and pro cedures threat assessment principles prescribe.

This descriptive-exploratory study investigate d behavioral assessment teams at state flagship universities in New England ( N = 6). Using a mixed methods approach, the principle research question w as addressed: Are there significant differences between the behavioral asse ssment teams in terms of composition, practices, and responsibilities relate d to threat assessment? Behavioral assessment team leaders ( N = 6) and team members ( N = 28) were surveyed to determine if there is a relationsh ip between levels of training and the functional implementation of threa t assessment. Team leaders ( N = 6) and executive administrators ( N = 4), who were responsible for oversight of the behavioral assessment teams, w ere interviewed to gather information additional information about team forma tion, processes, and long-term strategic planning around institutional t hreat assessment systems.

The findings showed that although each team was uni que, there were no significant differences in terms of the research va riables. However, there was a significant positive correlation between level of training and confidence in using threat assessment among team members. Team va riations allowed for a number of recommendations to be made based on the findings and on expert opinions available from the literature.

1 I. INTRODUCTION

Until recently, most emergency planning at ins titutions of higher education focused on preparation, response, and rec overy with very little effort being put toward prevention strategies. It w as not until the tragic shootings at Virginia Technical Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2007 and Northern Illinois University in 2008 th at administrators of higher education institutions were prompted to re-evaluate their crisis management plans and to take appropriate measures for preventi ng and responding to crises (Curtis, 2009). One of the preventative measures most often cited i n the literature as a best practice is the creation of a multi-disciplina ry behavioral assessment team that utilizes a threat assessment model to add ress potential violence on campus (Delworth, 1989; Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Bor um, & Modzeleski, 2002). Threat assessment has been defined as “a set of operational activities that combine the use of an investigative process an d information-gathering strategies to inform a set of relevant questions, w hich are used to determine whether a student/situation poses a serious risk of targeted violence” (Randazzo, Borum, Vossekuil, Fein, Modzeleski, & Po llack, 2005, p. 151). Much of the research on threat assessment has focus ed on explaining what the principles are behind the threat assessment pro cesses and how these can be best utilized. However, there is little research on the degree to which these recommendations and strategies are being impl emented on campuses. The researcher has substantial interest in the topi c for several reasons. First, his educational background includes a master ’s degree in forensic

2 psychology. Second, because of this background, he has, on a number of occasions, been asked to give his opinion on the le vel of risk a student poses based on threats he or she has made toward others. Third, this is a topic of considerable interest to many in higher education a nd is one in need of more research to supplement many views that have been ex pressed on the issue. Problem Statement Researchers began focusing on the issue of school v iolence following a number of devastating school shootings in the 1990s . In 2002, the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education published the results of a five-year study that became the seminal work in t he area of school shootings (Vossekuil, et al., 2002). Based on the r esults of this study, the U.S. Department of Education recommended the threat assessment approach as a best practice for addressing potential targete d violence in schools, and further proposed that one of the best ways to utili ze this approach is with a multi-disciplinary behavioral assessment team that identifies, assesses, and manages the subject, the target, and the situation in the school setting (Fein, Vossekuil, Pollack, Borum, Modzeleski, & Reddy, 200 2; Vossekuil, et al., 2002). Not until after the killings at Virginia Tech in 20 07 and Northern Illinois University in 2008 did higher education leaders beg in to look at how vulnerable their institutions might be to threats o f violence. Much of the research to date has been focused on explaining and defining what the threat assessment approach is. One of the main issues is t hat the majority of the research on threat assessment in educational settin gs has been conducted in

3 the elementary and secondary school settings. There are relatively few studies about the implementation and use of these r ecommendations in a college or university environment. This study examined how the flagship universities i n New England have adopted the recommended threat assessment approach. It also explored the level of understanding of the threat assessment pro cess.

Background of the Study The well being of civilized society depends upon a continued supply of educated professionals and citizens emanating from colleges and universities. One of the essential functions of institutions of h igher education (IHE) is to provide a safe environment in which students can ch allenge themselves intellectually, mature emotionally, and prepare to become contributing members of society (Heilburn, Dvoskin, & Heilburn, 2009). Daily, colleges and universities are faced with threats to the safe ty and security of their students, faculty, staff, and property, which can c ome in several forms. Emergency preparedness is essential for the protect ion of campuses against natural disasters. Crisis management is concerned w ith human-caused disasters such as fires, bomb threats, cyber-attack s, sabotage, civil disorder, violence, and mass-casualty events (Curtis, 2009; M itroff, & Anagnos, 2008). As noted by Mitroff and Anagnos (2008): It’s not possible to give a precise and general def inition of a crisis, just as it’s not possible to predict with exact certainty when a cri sis will occur, how it will occur, and why. A major crisis affects, or has the potenti al to affect, the whole of an organization. A major crisis will also exact a majo r toll on human lives, property, financial earnings, and the reputation and/or gener al health and well being of the organization. Often these effects occur simultaneou sly. As a result, a major crisis cannot be completely contained within the organizat ion’s boundaries. (p. 224)

4 The U.S. Department of Education recommends that pr eparation, prevention, response, and recovery strategies shoul d be included in all crisis management plans in order to minimize injury and de struction on college campuses (2006). Some threats are unavoidable by th eir very nature. Certain natural disasters, such as hurricanes, are predictable but are unpreventable. Many other threats can, with diligen ce and forethought, be mitigated or outright prevented. Still, “Completely preventing human-caused crises is impossible. However, with the appropriate planning and preparation, any company can limit both the duration and the dam age caused by major crises” (Mitroff & Anagnos, 2008, p. 222). Campus Violence One of the most potentially devastating threats to the safety and security of those at institutions of higher education is the risk of campus violence. Unfortunately, campus violence is not a new phenome non. As noted by Cornell (2008), “Terms such as ‘school violence’ an d ‘campus violence’ are potentially misleading, because they imply that the location of the event is the defining feature of the problem” (p. 1). The lo cation of the violence is significant only in that the perpetrator chose a sc hool or a campus instead of a random site of opportunity (Vossekuil et al., 200 2). It does not diminish or lessen the impact of the actual violent act because it took place on a campus. Indeed such violence is often perceived as more hor rific because it occurred in a place associated with learning. Campus violence, as defined by The American College Health Association (ACHA), includes the categories of sexual violence; racial, ethnic, and

5 gender-based violence and homophobic intimidation; hazing; celebratory violence; attempted suicide and suicide; aggravated assault; arson; attacks on faculty or staff; non-negligent manslaughter; ho micide; and mass-murder (Carr & Ward, 2005). Although all of the different types of crimes described in the ACHA report are devastating, few are as over whelming as campus shootings or other mass-casualty events (Carr & War d, 2005). Targeted Violence Targeted violence is defined as “any incident of vi olence where a known or knowable attacker selects a particular target pr ior to their violent attack” (Vossekuil et al., 2002, p. 4). In April 2010, the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Educatio n (USDE) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), released a report th at looked at the number of targeted violent attacks on or near college campuse s (Drysdale, Modzeleski, & Simons, 2010). The study reviewed public records of lethal or potentially lethal campus assaults from 1900 to 2009. Of the 27 2 reported incidents, most (74%) have occurred since 1980 (Drysdale et al ., 2010). Despite the disturbing trend in the last 30 years, the actual i ncidents of campus shootings or mass casualty events are still relativ ely rare. However, when they do occur, the results are catastrophic for the institution and for students, faculty, and staff. Following the attack at Columbine High School in Ap ril 1999, the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education launched the Safe School Initiative, a three-year study focused on “t he thinking, planning, and

6 other pre-attack behaviors engaged in by attackers who carried out school shootings” (Vossekuil et al., 2002, p. 3).

The focus of the initial Safe School Initiative was elementary and secondary schools, not colleges and universities. H owever, the findings were significant and have important implications for ins titutions of higher education. The significant findings of the Safe Sch ool Initiative (2001) study were that prior to the incidents in most cases atta ckers told someone about their plans; attackers made plans and were rarely i mpulsive; that there was no accurate or useful general profile; and that att ackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help (USSS, 2000). In nearly all of these cases the threats were not made directly to the intended victim(s), but were commun icated to third parties. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that “had the thre ats been reported and investigated, the shootings might have been prevent ed” (Cornell, 2008). Threat Assessment The findings of the Safe School Initiative (2002) a nd the FBI report (2000) led the U.S. Department of Education, the U. S. Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to recommend a threat assessment approach to prevent school shootings: Findings about pre-attack behaviors of perpetrators of targeted violence validated the “fact-based” approach of the threat assessment process. This process relies primarily on the appraisal of behaviors, rather tha n stated threats or traits, as the basis for determining whether there is cause fo r concern. (Fein, Vossekuil, Pollack, Borum, Modzeleski, & Reddy, 2002, p. 5)

Threat assessment is an approach originally develop ed by the U.S. Secret Service in its protective intelligence activities t o guard the president of the

7 United States and other national and foreign leader s (Borum, Fein, Vossekuil, & Berglund, 1999). There are three major functions of a threat assessment program (Fein, Vossekuil, & Holden, 1995): 1.

Identification: There is no profile or single “type of perpetrator”, rather “violence stems from an interaction among th e potential attacker, past stressful events, a current situatio n, and the target.” (Randazzo et al., 2005, p. 151).

2.

Assessment: There is a distinction between “making a threat (expressing, to the target or others, and intent to harm the target) and posing a threat (engaging in behaviors that fur ther a plan to harm the target)” (Randazzo et al., 2005, p. 151). Many people who make threats do not pose a serious risk of harm to the target. “Without a careful threat assessment procedure to d istinguish serious from non-serious cases, it is inevitable th at fearful school authorities will over-react to students who make no n-serious threats” (Cornell, 2008, p. 14).

3.

Management: “Targeted violence is neither random no r spontaneous; targeted violence is the result of an understandable and often discernible process of thinking and behav ior” (Borum et al., 1999, p. 329).

Behavioral Assessment Teams In a school or college/university setting, the thre at assessment approach requires “the person or team conducting the inquiry to gather information, and answer key questions about the case, and to eva luate the evidence suggesting movement toward violent action” (Randazz o et al., 2005, p. 153). One strategy often employed by campuses is a multi- disciplinary behavioral assessment team (BAT). These behavioral assessment teams are often charged with addressing crises, disturbing behavior , and medical and psychiatric situations of individual students, facu lty, and or staff. Behavioral assessment teams often conduct threat assessments a nd should be the primary investigators of whether a student has the intent and the means to

8 carry out the threat. Additionally the teams "will also take actions to help the student resolve the problem or conflict that stimul ated the threat” (Cornell, 2008, p. 11). Conclusion

Campus violence is just one of a myriad number of t hreats facing institutions of higher education. However, unlike o ther threats, campus violence may be preventable. Nationwide, colleges a nd universities struggle to ensure the safety and security of their campuses with interventions that are not only effective, but also affordable. Having a multi-disciplinary behavioral assessment team that uses the threat ass essment approach is the most cited best practice supported by the U.S. Depa rtment of Education and federal law enforcement agencies. However, there is very little research on how to effectively implement this strategy on campu ses. Definition of Terms Several terms in this study require clarification a nd definition. Behavioral Assessment Team - Multi-disciplinary team formed to deal with matters of crisis, disturbing behavior, and medical or psychiatric situations involving students, faculty, and/or staf f in order to determine needs and appropriate responses (NACUBO, 2008).

Campus/School Violence - The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself or another pe rson or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation that takes place in the buildings, grounds, or surroundi ng area of a school or college/university campus. This includes, but is no t limited to campus shootings, murder/suicides, homicides, hate crimes based on gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, suicides, a ssaults, hazing, celebratory violence, and arson (Carr & Ward, 2005) .

Core Team - Members of a behavioral assessment team that form the core group with specific training in threat assessment t hat may be called upon to form a threat assessment team and respond to an escalating situation.

9

Crisis - An event, which is often sudden or unexpected, that disrupts the normal operations of the institution or its educati onal mission and threatens the well-being of its personnel, property , financial resources and/or reputation of the institution (Harper, Pater son, & Zdziarski, 2006).

Crisis Management - The process by which an organization deals with a major unpredictable event that threatens to harm th e organization, its stakeholders, or the general public (Mitroff & Anag nos, 2008).

Mass Murder/Killings - Three or more killings committed around the same time by the same perpetrator.

Mass Casualty Event - Any incident in which emergency medical services personnel and equipment at the scene are overwhelme d by the number and severity of casualties at that incident; someti mes referred to as a multiple-casualty incident or multiple-casualty sit uation.

Targeted Violence - Any incident of violence where a known or knowable

attacker selects a particular target prior to their violent attack (Fein, Vossekuil, & Holden, 1995).

Threat Assessment - A set of operational activities that combine the use of an investigative process and information-gathering strategies to inform a set of relevant questions, which are used to determ ine whether a person/situation poses a serious risk of targeted v iolence (Randazzo, Borum, Vossekuil, Fein, Modzeleski, & Pollack, 2005 ).

Threat Assessment Team - Multi-disciplinary team that "interacts and operates on a regular basis- and as needed for cris is situations. Team is available to review and discuss any students, emplo yees or other persons who have raised concerns and may be at risk of harm ing either themselves or others, or who pose a significant dis ruption to the learning, living, or working environment" (Deisinger et al., 2008, p. 12).

Behavioral Assessment and Threat Assessment Teams

There are a number of similarities between the defi nition of a behavioral assessment team and a threat assessment team. In th e literature the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the primary difference is that threat assessment teams are designed to be sma ller, more responsive, and focused on student or staff concerns that have escalated into threatening situations.

10 Conversely, a behavioral assessment team is designe d to deal with any concerning behaviors that have come to its attentio n, with the intention of assisting the student or staff person in accessing the necessary resources. In the process of completing this task, behavioral ass essment teams may be called upon to investigate and assess threatening o r concerning behavior. Given the similarities in their roles and the fact that both teams can be called upon to perform threat assessments, for the purpose of this study a behavioral assessment team will be defined using th e NACUBO (2008) definition: Multi-disciplinary teams formed to deal with matters of crisis, disturbing behavior, and medical or psychiatric sit uations involving students, faculty, and/or staff in order to determine needs a nd appropriate responses. This study will investigate how behavioral assessme nt teams use the threat assessment approach in their work. Research Questions

To guide the study, one primary research question a nd two secondary research questions were used. Primary Research Question: Are there differences among the behavioral assessme nt teams at the flagship universities in New England in terms of co mposition, responsibilities, and practices?

Secondary Research Questions: I. Are there significant differences among the beh avioral assessment teams in the functional utilization of the function s and principles of the threat assessment approach?

II. Is there a relationship between the level of tr aining that team members have received and their level of self-confi dence in using the threat assessment approach?

11 Methodology

Research Design This study was designed to use a two-phased mi xed methods descriptive- exploratory study of the behavioral assessment team at the flagship universities in New England. The data for the study were comprised of questionnaire results, interview results, and the c ollection and review of online documentation from multiple sites. The behav ioral assessment team at each university is described, focusing on team char acteristics, the number of team members, the amount and type of training recei ved, and any unique processes or procedures of each team. For the first phase, qualitative information w as secured from interviews with behavioral assessment team leaders and executi ve administrators responsible for oversight of the institutional thre at assessment systems. The second phase consisted of quantitative data gathere d by means of two questionnaires from behavioral assessment team lead ers and team members. Additional information was retrieved from a review of web-based postings on policies and practices at each institut ion. Information from the three sources was triangulated. Participants

The participants for this study were the behavioral assessment team members and executive administrators responsible fo r team oversight at the state flagship universities in New England ( N = 6): University of Connecticut; University of Maine; University of Massachusetts, U niversity of New Hampshire; University of Rhode Island; and, Univers ity of Vermont.

12 The New England region was chosen for convenience a nd because there have been no major reported incidents that may have impacted, either positively or negatively, on the development of the behavioral assessment teams at these institutions. For the first phase, those administrators identifie d as the team leaders ( N = 6) and executive administrators with oversight r esponsibility for teams ( N = 4) were interviewed. For the second phase, ident ified members of behavioral assessment teams ( N = 44 ) and the team leaders at each university were asked to complete the questionnaire . The questionnaire response rates were 100% for the team leaders (6 re sponses/6 leaders) and 64% for the team members (28 responses/44 members). The names of the team leaders, executive administrators, and team me mbers interviewed and/or surveyed for this study will remain confiden tial. Further, to avoid any possible connection between the interviewees and th eir institutions, the specific universities are not identified when the r esults are presented and all possible identifying comments were removed. Instruments The first-phase interviews were semi-structured in nature, as flexibility was needed to lead the conversation to areas or top ics that were more relevant for one institution than another. These in terviews addressed the three functions of threat assessment (identificatio n, assessment, and management) and also inquired about any policies, p rocedures, strategic planning, and system-wide incorporation of crisis p revention efforts and training.

13 There were two survey instruments developed for pha se two of this study. The first questionnaire was sent to the team leader s at each institution to gather data on the teams’ composition, responsibili ties, and practices in using threat assessment. The survey was divided int o four sections. Section 1 asked questions about the team composition and ar eas of member representation. Section 2 assessed questions of tra ining on the three major functions of threat assessment: identification, ass essment, and management. Section 3 investigated the extent to which teams in corporate the 12 principles of the threat assessment approach (Deisi nger et al., 2008). Section 4 assessed the team leaders’ confidence in their te am's ability to use the threat assessment approach. Responses were measured using a 5-point Likert-type scale. The second questionnaire was designed for the behavioral assessment team members and was divided into three sections. S ection 1 addressed the level of training individual members receive, team composition, and practice. Section 2 assessed respondents' level of confidence in their individual ability, and their team’s ability to operationalize the thre e main functions of threat assessment (identification, assessment, and managem ent) effectively. Section 3 asked questions about the 12 principles o f the threat assessment approach (Deisinger, Randazzo, O'Neill, & Savage, 2 008). Responses were measured using a 5-point Likert-type scale. Data Collection Contact was made with the student affairs administr ators at the flagship universities to identify the team leaders of the be havioral assessment teams.

14 Team leaders were contacted by e-mail, describing t he study and requesting their assistance. Approximately three days before a scheduled interview, a confirmation e-mail was sent, providing the prelimi nary questions to be covered and the human subject consent form. Before the interview began, a signed copy of the human subject consent form was s ecured, as was agreement to record the interviews digitally in ord er to ensure the accuracy of the responses. Following the interviews, the team leaders were pro vided a link to the online team leader survey. Team leaders were also a sked to provide their team members with a link, via e-mail, to the online team member questionnaire and to encourage their participation.

Full document contains 167 pages
Abstract: Incidents of violence on college campuses, although rare, are devastating. In response to the recent spate of shootings, many colleges and universities have followed the best practice recommendations of the U.S. Department of Education (2006) and formed multi-disciplinary behavioral assessment teams. The purpose of these team is to deal with matters of crisis, disturbing behavior, and medical or psychiatric situations involving students, faculty, and/or staff in order to determine needs and appropriate responses (NACUBO, 2008). One preventative approach often employed by these teams is threat assessment. Originally developed by the U.S. Secret Service to evaluate subjects who threatened public officials, threat assessment has evolved into operational activities designed to analyze dangerous situations. Using guidelines based on threat assessment principles, behavioral assessment teams investigate whether an individual has the intent and the means to carry out a threat. It is, however, unclear how many teams members are formally trained in threat assessment or if they follow the techniques and procedures threat assessment principles prescribe. This descriptive-exploratory study investigated behavioral assessment teams at state flagship universities in New England (N = 6). Using a mixed methods approach, the principle research question was addressed: Are there significant differences between the behavioral assessment teams in terms of composition, practices, and responsibilities related to threat assessment? Behavioral assessment team leaders ( N = 6) and team members (N = 28) were surveyed to determine if there is a relationship between levels of training and the functional implementation of threat assessment. Team leaders (N = 6) and executive administrators (N = 4), who were responsible for oversight of the behavioral assessment teams, were interviewed to gather information additional information about team formation, processes, and long-term strategic planning around institutional threat assessment systems. The findings showed that although each team was unique, there were no significant differences in terms of the research variables. However, there was a significant positive correlation between level of training and confidence in using threat assessment among team members. Team variations allowed for a number of recommendations to be made based on the findings and on expert opinions available from the literature.