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Franczek’s Assessing Risk of Violence: Effectively Evaluating Threats to School Safety

2018 brought not only the high profile shooting in Parkland, Florida, but was a record year for gun violence in schools, generally. School Threat Assessment Teams are on the frontlines of school preventative efforts, helping schools identify those at risk for violence, intervene effectively, and manage risk. To be successful, school Threat Assessment Teams must utilize the knowledge of experts within the school and work with law enforcement and other outside professionals to understand the often complicated psychology of behavior that allows an accurate threat assessment to be made. During this event hosted by Franczek, forensic psychologist Dr. Nancy Zarse, current professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and a frequent trainer on threat assessments, explains what school leaders must know to conduct successful threat assessments and manage risk. 

This presentation addresses the following key topics:

  • The critical function of the Threat Assessment Team in addressing school-based violence
  • Risk factors for school-based violence
  • The biopsychosocial model of violence risk assessment
  • The stages of targeted or intended violence
  • How to distinguish between “hunters,” who truly intend violence, and “howlers,” whose “affective violence” is primarily emotional and defensive, including the importance of basing assessments on known facts and behaviors
  • Reporting challenges in the school realm

In addition, this presentation provides participants with the tools necessary to answer the powerful, yet simple, question that is key to effective threat assessments: Is there movement from thought to action?

Dr. Nancy Zarse

Dr. Zarse is a forensic psychologist and has assessed risk of violence at several high-profile prisons. She consults with and provides training on the prevention, identification, assessment, and management of risk of violence to law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Chicago Police Department, the U.S. Army Military Police, and Crisis Negotiation Associations. She consults with and trains schools, employers, and organizations such as the Chicago Bar Association on threat assessment issues. Dr. Zarse is also a full professor in the Forensic Department at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is lead faculty for Violence & Risk Assessment, Psychology of Terrorism, Hostage Negotiation, Psychology of Law Enforcement, and the Evaluation & Treatment of the Adult Offender. Dr. Zarse has presented at national and international forums on numerous issues, including violence risk assessment, terrorism, school violence, suicide risk assessment, and workplace violence. She has provided expert commentary on forensic issues in media interviews, including CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, Forbes Magazine, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. She has been featured in documentaries, such as White Supremacy: Going Under; Kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard; and Crime on Campus.


Franczek is celebrating its 25th year as one of the premier labor, employment, and education law practices in the country. As a mid-size law firm, Franczek provides a personal approach and exceptional value by focusing on select areas of law and doing them exceedingly well. Our personable, talented, and highly skilled attorneys and the depth of experience of our large school-law team allow us to provide unparalleled service to the over 100 Illinois school districts and more than 30 higher education institutions that trust us during their most trying times. Franczek attorneys frequently provide insights to the public on the most important and timely topics facing our clients and friends, including through written publications, speaking at educational associations and organizations, and offering firm events such as this event.