School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Keena Cowsert


Threat Assessment, Targeted Violence, School Psychology




Preventing acts of targeted violence in schools is a necessary good because of institutional and social harms. Acts of targeted violence in school are low probability, though high-impact events have often garnered a high degree of media attention and thus attention from society at large. In lieu of attempts at perpetrator profiling, current best practice approaches emphasize prevention and intervention measures that consider the environmental factors such as school climate that can serve to incubate school violence. School psychology as a field straddles education and applied psychology. For this reason, school psychologists are often called upon to participate in threat assessment for targeted violence. Many applied helping fields, including school psychology, have recognized that there is a discernable gap between best-practice guidelines and actual practice. This study explored the gap between idealized guidelines and actual practices around threat assessments for targeted violence by undertaking phenomenological semi-structured interviews with current school psychologists using a hermeneutical approach. Open note taking was used to clarify themes, understand barriers, environmental factors, and other phenomenon which help to understand how practicing school psychologists conceive of and implement threat assessments for harm to others.

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