Education Secretary Richard W. Riley said he opposes the use of behavioral profiling by schools to identify potentially violent students.

Some schools have adopted profiling in an attempt to prevent the kind of violence that occurred at Columbine High School a year ago.

“While we must work to prevent school violence, we cannot rely on mechanical profiling of students,” Riley told a group of school counselors in Chicago April 28. “We simply cannot put student behaviors into a formula to come up with the appropriate response.”

Profiling is controversial because of its potential to stigmatize troubled students who present no real threat of violence and because some minority groups feel they are singled out unfairly by its practice.

Twenty-five schools across the country, including two Chicago high schools, have been testing a computer program called Mosaic 2000. Designed to help school officials decide whether a student who has made a threat is likely to carry it out, the software has been praised by law enforcement and government security agencies alike.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups object to schools’ use of profiling as a solution. “Different doesn’t mean dangerous,” said ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield. “Not only are students being unfairly targeted but, in some cases, there’s not a whole lot of thought going into it.”

Riley said research by the Institute on Violent and Destructive Behavior at the University of Oregon suggests that schools can prevent 80 percent of violent behavior by promoting compassion, discipline, and peaceful resolution of conflicts as an alternative to student profiling.