School administrators who are concerned about tracking and predicting potentially violent behavior in their students soon will have access to a new software program that promises to help do this automatically.
The software, MOSAIC-2000, will be installed as a pilot program in 25 schools nationwide. It was developed by nationally-known violence prediction expert Gavin de Becker.
de Becker, who lives in Los Angeles, provides high-level protection for celebrities and public figures and has written two best-selling books on personal safety: “The Gift of Fear” and, most recently, “Protecting The Gift,” a parent’s guide for ensuring their children’s safety.
The result of more than ten years of research on violence and personal safety, MOSAIC-2000 is an advanced computer-aided assessment system that provides guidance in the evaluation of situations that might escalate to violence.
According to the product’s makers, the program works by drawing on research, expert opinion, and the study of more than 350,000 communications and 24,000 cases. Once new information is compared against this huge database, the program codes and assigns value to interrelated aspects of a case. The case screening results tell evaluators to what degree a case is similar to those that involve violence.
MOSAIC-2000 was developed for schools on the premise that every administrator has a method for evaluating students who make threats of violence, but no method for recording and analyzing these threats in an organized fashion for long-term examination. The program was designed to bring uniformity, structure, expert opinion, and validity to high-stakes evaluations such as these.
According to de Becker, MOSAIC-2000 allows educators to receive answers to questions such as:
• What is most important for me to learn about this situation?
• What information will most inform my evaluation?
• How can I organize all the information I gather to weigh it all most effectively?
• What factors and warning sings are most relevant to future behavior?
• How can I express and document my conclusions?
For educational purposes, the system works like this:
• An administrator or counselor sits down with a student who has crossed a disciplinary line of some sort, such as making a threat.
• The student must answer questions about his behavior, which include information about movies and music the child favors; history of family problems or abuse; and behavioral indicators, like animal abuse.
• The software then compares these answers with the other recorded cases in the database to determine the possibility of future violence for that student.
Different versions of the MOSAIC software currently are being used for violence assessment by the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the CIA, and the U.S. Marshall’s Office.
The program has received enthusiastic responses from law enforcement and government security agencies alike, de Becker said. A deputy director of the U.S. Marshals Service told de Becker, “Adding MOSAIC to our threat assessment capabilities will vastly increase out ability to make accurate, intelligent assessments. You have done the Federal Judiciary a great service.”
Ohio is one of the states with schools participating in the MOSIAC-2000 pilot program, thanks to the endorsements of Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and State Schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman.
Montgomery will consider funding the software for Ohio schools if the pilot program is successful, said Chris Davey, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. Indicators that the program is working to counteract violence could include decreases in students suspensions or expulsions or a documented intervention that prevented violence, Davey said.
“We’ve tried getting tough, banning book bags, putting cameras in schoolssometimes you feel you’ve tried everything,” he said. “Here’s a guy who says we can predict it and stop it before it ever happens. If someone is stepping up to the plate, we need to take notice of it.”
The estimated cost of installing MOSAIC-2000 is $1,000 per district. The final version of the software is due for release in March 2000.
Ohio Attorney General’s Office, (614) 466- 4320, http://www.ag.state.oh.us.