"In 1999 after the Columbine shooting, zero tolerance polices are what schools used to deal with violence. But, the FBI recommended the threat assessment program," said Dr. Dewey Cornell.
Dr. Cornell and Peter Sheras, both UVA professors, tested this program in 35 elementary, middle and high schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle County for one year.They said they had outstanding results. "It reduced significantly the number of students expelled," said Sheras.
"Out of 188 students only 3 were removed from school which is much better than with the zero tolerance approach," said Cornell.
In fact Dr. Cornell said it's less harsh than the zero tolerance policy. Threat assessment focuses more on teachers recognizing cruel talk from serious threats. "It's not just about a threat that's made or said because you know you could have a 5 year old say they're going to bring an atom bomb to school and that's a threat but it's not a posed threat. We're interested in who could deliver on the threats that they make," said Sheras.
"Our school administrators were perfectly capable of distinguishing serious threats from less serious ones and taking appropriate safety precautions. Contacting a guidance councilor or contacting law enforcement when necessary," said Cornell.
Sheras feels It's a win-win situation. "It allows us to look at the lives of children while looking at the safety of the school," said Sheras.
The professors have trained more than 20 school divisions in Virginia. Their goal is to make schools nationwide more safe for students.