July | August 2018

OJJDP Hosts Staff Session on Averted School Violence Initiative

Bullying is a significant factor in instances of school violence. OJJDP supports school safety and antibullying efforts through its programming and training and technical assistance. As part of the Office's “Lunch and Learn” series, on June 20, 2018, OJJDP’s Training and Technical Assistance Unit hosted Sarah Solano, project assistant at the Police Foundation for an all staff discussion of lessons learned from the foundation’s Averted School Violence Initiative.

Averted school violence is defined as a violent attack planned with or without use of a firearm that was prevented either before or after the perpetrator arrived on school grounds. The Police Foundation created the initiative to bring together law enforcement, school officials, and mental health and other professionals involved in identifying and preventing school attacks, and encourage them to share their stories to prevent future violence across the nation.

Through this initiative, 51 reported incidents have been verified and published in the Averted School Violence database to date. A trusting relationship between school administration and students is one common factor in the submissions. Students feel more comfortable reporting the suspicious behavior of fellow students when they trust that they will be heard. Collected incidents also reinforce the “see something, say something” concept by demonstrating the need for a variety of reporting mechanisms, such as text messaging or phone calls, in addition to face-to-face interactions with a school’s administration.


Collecting indepth information identifies common factors of averted school attacks that can be used to train school personnel, law enforcement, and others to improve school safety. Personnel involved in school attacks are encouraged to submit their information and can do so anonymously. The information is vetted and verified before being added to the database.


Some key takeaways from the initiative are the importance of educating students about warning signs and identifying student safety concerns. It is also important for schools to develop well-trained threat assessment teams that can evaluate a school’s particular safety issues or concerns.


Funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the National Institute of Justice, the initiative collects information from open source media reports and court documents, school officials, law enforcement, and others who were successful in averting school violence. The database spans the period since Colorado’s Columbine High School shooting in April 1999 to the present.


OJJDP’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center is collaborating with the Police Foundation on a two-part webinar series to provide practitioners with insight into the prevention of, response to, and recovery from school violence incidents. Part one, “Averting School Violence: Learning Lessons From the School Attack That Didn’t Happen—The Police Foundation’s Averted School Violence Database,” will take place on August 29, 2018, from 2–3 p.m. ET. Presenters will discuss the training provided in schools to help identify behavior that can lead to violence. Part two, “Strategies for the Prevention, Response, and Recovery From Acts of Violence in Schools,” will take place on September 5 from 2–3 p.m. ET, and will explore lessons learned from the response and recovery from acts of school violence.


Additional information on OJJDP’s school bullying prevention resources is available online.