Education & School Safety

The Public Policy Center's work in education research is focused on the issues of early childhood education, school behavioral health practices, school safety, threat assessment, and emergency planning and preparedness. The Center has provided extensive support for state and national efforts to assist with implementing threat assessment and other prevention strategies to educational settings.

Recent projects include Learning Frontiers study of early learning policies and practices, Nebraska K-12 Threat Assessment, and Emergency Planning for Schools.

Efforts in this area include:

  • Evaluating Nebraska’s AWARE project to expand behavioral health partnerships in K-12 schools in collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Education and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Examining early learning policies and practices in 12 Nebraska school districts as part of the Learning Frontiers longitudinal study of early learning and development.  
  • Training hundreds of K-12 school professionals and local law enforcement officers in over half of the school districts across Nebraska in assessing and managing threats.
  • Assisting the Nebraska Department of Education to analyze safety plans and assessments completed in every school building in Nebraska.
  • Performing research related to the incidence and reporting of various forms of targeted violence (e.g., stalking, sexual) within universities in the U.S. and internationally.
  • Deploying youth suicide prevention activities across the state in partnership with Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.
  • Training over 65,000 educators and staff at Nebraska’s K-12 schools in suicide prevention.
  • Assisting the Nebraska Department of Education with a YouTube video highlighting the importance of threat assessment in school safety.
  • Performing research and consultation supported by Homeland Security funding addressing risk toward university research settings (e.g., animal rights and environmental extremism).

Educational Service Units Threat Assessment Training

The Public Policy Center partnered with the Nebraska Department of Education to conduct basic and advanced threat assessment training for Nebraska schools. The training is sponsored by local Educational Service Units in all areas of the state and features guidelines created by the Public Policy Center that translate the science and practice of threat assessment for use by local school and community teams. Participants in the training include educators, administrators, law enforcement, mental health, public health, and human resource professionals around the state of Nebraska. This training utilizes a threat assessment strategy specifically tailored for rural settings and other schools with limited resources.

Threat assessment and management evolved from practices used to assess and manage potential risk of violence. This K-12 school team training aims to help schools form or enhance the team that will focus on identifying, assessing, and managing the risk/threat of violence posed by students, staff, and community members toward the school community. The purpose of threat assessment teams are distinct from issues addressed by safety teams, student behavior teams, and crisis response teams; though all of these school teams may be implicated in strategies for monitoring and managing potential threats. To date, statewide K-12 Threat Assessment Training has reached over 100 Nebraska school districts, helping Nebraska schools prepare for and mitigate threats in schools.

Learn more by visiting the Threat Assessment website.

Stop School Violence Act Grants

The Nebraska Department of Education, in partnership with the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center, applied for and received two “Stop School Violence Act” grants (2018-2021). The first grant focuses on a provision of training to teachers and education to students with the intent to prevent student violence in rural areas. Our focus is on increasing overall awareness of behaviors associated with the pathway to violence, knowing how and what to report to authorities and implementation of locally driven, evidence informed violence prevention strategies. Efforts are sustained by creation of virtual training videos. The second grant focuses on increasing threat assessment capacity for schools in rural areas by offering advanced threat assessment and management training and case consultation to school teams. This grant also includes an archive of videos and other materials to support rural school threat assessment teams after the grant ends.


Conference & Training Facilitation

For many of our active projects, our staff plan and execute conferences, workshops, and seminars of all sizes, virtual and in-person. This includes event management, technology recommendations, graphic design, communications, and accommodations for in-person and remote-hosted events. Additionally, staff are experienced in managing all logistics for virtual and in-person events. The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center is an approved continuing education sponsor through the American Psychological Association (APA). This means we can facilitate psychologists’ access to continuing education that meets APA standards.

Grant Development & Management

We pursue and manage funding opportunities to support policy-related initiatives. Center researchers garner both public and private funding at the local, state, and national levels for applied and translational research grants. We work closely with partners to identify funding opportunities, develop grant and contract proposal narratives, create budgets and timelines, execute agreements, manage grant funds in accordance with funder requirements, and submit required fiscal and programmatic reporting.

Program Design and Evaluation

Center research staff routinely conduct program evaluations in partnership with stakeholders to define questions, plan activities, interpret results, and use findings to recommend and implement changes. We use quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods techniques appropriate to the project. Our programmatic capabilities include survey design, interviews, focus groups, mapping geographic data, overall data analysis, and report preparation.

Project Management, Strategic Planning & Consulting

Our researchers bring high-level management expertise to projects for all kinds of organizations. We bring research-based insights to executive decision-making, develop organizational structures to achieve desired results; assist with communication planning, agenda setting and creating necessary informational materials; implement research plans; and guide open communication among stakeholders. Our researchers are trained in facilitation and regularly lead stakeholders through strategic planning, problem definition, and consensus-building, as well as discovering organizational priorities, setting goals, and creating action plans.

Scholarly Research

Our approach is rooted in academic-oriented inquiry and investigation. We provide basic research products for partners such as high-quality and easy-to-understand literature reviews, white papers, and briefing papers. Our researchers come from diverse disciplines, including: Business, Economics, Family and Consumer Sciences, Law, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. 

Stakeholder Engagement & Outreach

We work with stakeholders to design and execute customized frameworks. This includes determining the breadth, length, location, and timing of facilitated events; identifying participants; collecting data from participants throughout the planning or engagement process; creating opportunities for feedback and debriefing; and producing draft and final products based on results. In addition, many of our staff consult with outside organizations and conduct professional presentations on a variety of issues.