National Institute of Justice (NIJ)


Brief Interventions Enhancing School Safety 

Discipline in schools is typically disproportionate, reactive and punitive. Evidence-based strategies that have been recently developed focus on shifting schools to a more proactive and positive approach by detecting warning signs and intervening early. This project evaluates the implementation of an evidence-based intervention to improve students’ mindsets and feelings of school belonging. 

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this project was designed to enhance school capacity to implement a Tier 2 intervention (Student Engagement and Empowerment) to improve student attendance, behavior and achievement, while simultaneously evaluating the effects of this intervention. The intervention and research project were individualized to fit existing school operations in White River School District. 

The University of Washington (UW) SMART Center and PSESD partnered with Glacier Middle School and White River High School to:

  • Reduce risk factors for violent behavior and strengthen school engagement through the delivery of an early identification and intervention process for students grades 6-9
  • Increase school capacity to utilize early warning indicators to identify students at risk and provide early interventions as appropriate

This project is designed to deliver and evaluate an early warning system and Tier 2 intervention (Student Engagement and Empowerment) to improve student attendance, behavior and achievement. In doing so, this project investigates the effects of building capacity within schools to make data-driven decisions surrounding the selection and delivery of evidence-based, brief, relatively low-cost interventions proven to improve students’ mindsets and school belonging, two constructs linked to increased school engagement and safety.

Student Demographics

Data was collected on at-risk students receiving the program over five waves from Spring of 2016 to Spring of 2019, and a comparison group of at-risk students not receiving the program, in order to provide generalizable data about the impact of early intervention for at-risk youth. 

studetn demographics


Student-Reported Risks and Needs 

Students were identified at Glacier Middle School and White River High School who were at greater potential risk of drop out. Risk was identified by variables such as: unexcused absences, suspensions, grades, ELA and MATH scores. We did not include those students with the highest risk scores as these were students that would likely be in need of greater individualized support (Tier 3) as well as those students who had lower risk scores.  

house icon
  • 4 students indicated that they had experienced homelessness in the past 2 years
  • 33% have lived in 2 or more different homes in the past 2 years
  • 15% have lived in a foster home, group home or with a relative for 1+ month
bus icon


  • 85% report that a brother/sister has dropped out of middle or high school
  • 44% have attended 2 or more schools in the past 2 years
  • 6% have been held back or not promoted to the next grade in school 
diploma icon
Grades & Future Schooling 
  • One third of students report receiving mostly A's and B's
  • 21% don't believe they will attend postsecondary school
  • 53% believe they will attain a Bachelor's degree or more 
hammer and gavel
Truancy & Disciplinary Action 
  • 82% report never skipping or cutting class
  • 11% have been suspended or expelled from school 2 or more times 
hands icon
Stressors & Basic Needs 
  • 30% receive free or reduce-priced meals at school
  • One third report that someone close to them has died in the last year
  • 12% report that their parents have divorced or separated in the last year

Research Questions 

  1. When compared to a randomly assigned group of students receiving intervention as usual, do students in the intervention group have:
    1. Significant improvements in school belonging and academic mindsets?
    2. Significant improvements in risk factors for violence, including attendance, engagement, suspensions/expulsions and course failure?
    3. Significant improvements in teacher-reported, parent-reported, and self-reported behavior?
    4. Significantly fewer unsafe behaviors?

  2. Do certain student-level factors (such as, ethnicity, gender, timing of identification, baseline status on measures of behavior, school belonging, and growth mindset) moderate the effectiveness of the intervention?

  3. Do changes in school belonging and mindset mediate the relationship between intervention and outcomes?

  4. Do educators, parents and students find the interventions to be acceptable, beneficial, feasible, and developmentally appropriate for use with students in schools?
PSESD logo
uw logo
white river logo
nij logo