After Aurora, Universities Consider Threat Assessments, But It’s Not Easy


A Colorado judge today will consider whether to lift the gag order in the case of James Holmes, 24, accused of killing 12 and wounding dozens more at a movie theater last month, NPR reports. News organizations want access to case files, including a notebook that Holmes reportedly sent to a university psychiatrist before withdrawing from the school that may have described an attack. The University of Colorado and other universities are reviewing whether more could have been done to prevent mass shootings.

“An immediate reaction for us is, ‘Could that happen here?’ and, ‘What changes should we consider making in order to fill the gap that maybe was apparent there?’ ” says John Zacker, head of the University of Maryland’s Behavior Evaluation and Threat Assessment team. As schools scramble to draw lessons from Colorado and tighten their procedures, Zacker says, they’re also trying to prevent a panicked reaction on their own campuses. The tendency after a major episode, he says, is to over-report. “You know, this can get very difficult,” Zacker says. “We all watch those reports, thinking, ‘Gee, I’ve got a fellow in my class that acts that way.’ “

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