Interviews Could Help Prevent School Shootings

Aug 16, 2016

A study at Cincinnati Children's could help mental health professionals identify students who could harm themselves or others.
Credit Sarah Ramsey

Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital have developed a test that could help identify whether a student is likely to become violent. Doctors spent more than a year interviewing 25 area students and analyzing their language to see if they're at high risk for a violent act.

Dr. Drew Barzman says the information gathered in those interviews is collected and reviewed to see if the students are a danger to themselves or to others.

Barzman says the study takes the language students use and compares it with known risk factors to determine if they could turn violent.

"We do a thorough assessment. We tape record the assessment, and then the interview is transcribed. But at the same time, we're also providing real-time feedback to the parent as well as the school to help these students out."

Barzman says researchers are taking the findings and developing a computer program that mental health professionals can use to assess the risk of school violence.

"We've developed a standardized questionnaire which is easy to administer and score, and it only takes about 15 minutes, 20 minutes at most. And we're finding differences between the low risk and the high risk students. We're basically, in the future, going to have a computer program help out school professionals and mental health professionals in assessing the risk for school violence."

He says the project is about halfway through the recruiting process, and the results have been promising. By early 2018, Barzman's team plans to have interviewed more than 125 students.

The study results were published in the July edition of Psychiatric Quarterly.

Barzman was part of an earlier study on identifying potentially violent students. That study involved MRI's and DNA testing. He says the findings were accepted and published, but he decided to take his research in another direction.