Capitol Hill Briefing on School Safety

By Barbara Melendez


TAMPA, Fla. (March 22, 2010) – With each school shooting, fears deepen for the safety of everyone at every learning institution, from grammar schools to college campuses.  Yet how afraid should the public be, really? University of South Florida Professor Randy Borum led a team of school safety experts in writing an article titled “What Can Be Done About School Shootings?” for a special issue of Educational Researcher  devoted to “New Perspectives on School Safety and Violence Prevention” and indeed does bring a new set of ideas to the issue.


The article examines empirical evidence and concludes that these kinds of violent events are very uncommon and should not generate widespread fear, but the authors also recommend that schools develop plans to assess and manage threatening situations and to respond effectively in the aftermath.”


According to Borum, “School shootings are horrific, but extremely rare events. We have to put the risk in its proper perspective, and focus our efforts on prevention – not prediction, profiling, or checklists.  Effective prevention efforts work to create a safe climate in the school, while relying on systematic procedures for thoughtfully assessing and managing situations in which there is a concern about potential violence.


“America’s long-term interests in school safety generally, and in preventing school shootings specifically, will best be served by relying on research evidence to guide a comprehensive, school-wide approach,” he said.


Borum is a professor in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences Department of Mental Health Law and Policy and holds a joint appointment in the USF College of Public Health.  He and co-authors Dewey G. Cornell (University of Virginia, director of Virginia Youth Violence Project), William Modzeleski (U.S. Department of Education Associate Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools) and Shane R. Jimerson from the  University of California, Santa Barbara will be acknowledged in Washington, D.C. at a Congressional briefing to be held April 8, at 2 p.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 430 where their findings will be presented.  Cornell will deliver the briefing with the special issue co-editor, Matthew Mayer, from the Department of Educational Psychology at Rutgers University.


“We hope that members of Congress will come away from this briefing with an understanding that schools are fundamentally safe, but it is vital that they have a careful approach for assessing and managing threats,” Borum said. 


Educational Researcher is the journal of the American Educational Research Association. The special issue on school violence is currently available free to the public at



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.