Student Crisis Prevention in Schools: The NETWorks Against School Shootings Program (NETWASS)

An Approach Suitable for the Prevention of Violent Extremism? A new article building on the MINDb4ACT project.


The standardized, indicated school-based prevention program “Networks Against School Shootings” (NETWASS) combines a threat assessment approach with a general model of prevention of emergency situations in schools through early intervention in student psychosocial crises and training teachers to recognize warning signs of targeted school violence. The present review summarized the underlying program theory, gives examples from German cases of severe targeted violence, gives an overview of the program components, and a summary of the evaluation study and its results. Finally, the NETWASS crisis prevention approach is reflected with regard to its feasibility for the prevention of violent extremism.

Within the last twenty years student-perpetrated shootings at schools emerged as a worldwide phenomenon. With more than twelve incidents, Germany has experienced more serious attacks targeting schools than any nation other than the United States (Bondü, Cornell, & Scheithauer, 2011) resulting in the deaths of 20 teachers and 16 students (Leuschner et al., 2011). Incidents of severe targeted school violence such as school shootings are planned violent acts at a school committed by current or former students with the intention to kill at least one person associated with the school context (Bondü & Scheithauer, 2014a, b, c; 2015). A key finding from school shooting research is that severe targeted school violence is the endpoint of a negative psychosocial development including complex interactions of psychosocial, situational, and structural (e.g. within school environment) risk factors. This negative developmental pathway of a student towards a severe act of violence is associated with observable features, i.e. beside the psychosocial risk factors especially warning and “leaking” behaviors (see below; for an overview of the research literature see Bondü & Scheithauer, 2014a; Bondü et al., 2011; Leuschner et al., 2017; Scheithauer, Leuschner and NETWASS Research Group, 2015).

This review will describe the theoretical background, preventive framework, and specific features of the NETWASS program, and report selected results from the longitudinal evaluation study. Additionally, structural problems of violence prevention in schools will be highlighted. The NETWASS approach is eventually discussed as a potential strategy to prevent violent incidents associated with radicalization through the early recognition of warning signs and resulting indicated preventive intervention.

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Fiedler, N., Sommer, F., Leuschner, V., & Scheithauer, H. (2019). Student crisis prevention in schools: The NETWorks Against School Shootings Program (NETWASS) – An approach suitable for the prevention of violent extremism? International Journal of Developmental Science, 13, 109–122. DOI: 10.3233/DEV-190283 (open access)