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

Daniel D Graney, Johnson & Wales University


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.

Subject Area

School administration|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Graney, Daniel D, "Behavioral Assessment Teams Using Threat Assessment at Flagship Universities in New England" (2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3457223.