New grant will allow CU Boulder researchers to formally evaluate Colorado’s school safety protocol and training program
Colorado’s approach to managing safety threats in schools is thought of as one of the most advanced in the nation. And yet it has never been formally evaluated—until now.
With the help of a nearly $1 million grant, the Colorado School Safety Resource Center (CSSRC) and the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder will evaluate the Colorado Threat Assessment and Management Protocol, a guidance and training tool that schools use to deal with potential safety risks.
The researchers will use the grant to look at whether it’s feasible for schools to use the protocol as designed, ensuring it’s doing what it’s supposed to do: Keep students safe from violence.
“If we have an evidence-based threat assessment, instrument, protocol and training—and they are being implemented as intended—then we expect to see improved school safety and thwarted attacks,” said Sabrina Arredondo Mattson, a research associate with the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, which is in the Institute of Behavioral Sciences, and one of the lead investigators for the grant.
The Colorado Threat Assessment and Management Protocol was developed in 2011 using what were, at the time, the latest federal recommendations and best practices. From the beginning, the goal was to provide schools with a way to identify, assess and work with students who might pose a security risk or safety threat.
Since its development, though, little research has been done into how well educators use the protocol.
The CSSRC and the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence see this grant as an opportunity to improve and examine—for the first time—the protocol that impacts tens of thousands of students every year.
“We want to make sure that our evidence-based threat assessment protocol is feasible and adopted by educators. The research will also evaluate satisfaction and cultural relevance, and assess how responsive the protocol is to the needs of students. We want to make sure that educators feel like they can implement it with confidence,” said Arredondo Mattson.
This grant is funded through the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance’s STOP School Violence Act of 2018 and is the result from a collaboration between the CSSRC (which is part of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Colorado Department of Public Safety), CU Boulder and the University of Northern Colorado.
The grant funds the project for three years. During that time, the researchers plan to update and refine the protocol and pilot it with five schools. From there, they plan to use the feedback they receive to evaluate the updated materials with an additional 30 schools around the state.
The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence has “good partners across Colorado institutions which will ensure we learn together as part of this work,” said Arredondo Mattson.
“It’s nice to see that we set this project as a goal and we’re on our way towards achieving it by receiving this grant. We’re pleased with our progress.”