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Preventing school violence: Children’s Hospital uses $2.8M grant to develop detection system

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 9:06 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 9:08 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center received a five-year grant totaling $2.8 million from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to develop an automated risk assessment (ARIA) system, which is designed to detect and prevent school violence.

Researchers say there is a critical need to develop a rapid and accurate approach to interview students, assess risk characteristics, and provide supportive evidence for prevention.

“Our goal is to prevent those strains of aggressive behaviors before they grow to some major problems like a school shooting,” says Principal Investigator of the Project Yizhao Ni. “We try to prevent that at the earliest stage so that it can prevent some sort of violence.”

The study will be among the first efforts that leverage natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to analyze interviews, identify risk characteristics from student language, and predict violent outcomes.

This timely research will help improve safety as students return to full in-person study at schools.

The grant will enable the scientists to build off of a previous study and refine the artificial intelligence technology to predict potential future violent outcomes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acts of school violence have increased over the past decade, and more than 20% of students report being bullied at school.

The goal is to help establish a nationwide solution for school violence risk assessment, which will benefit healthcare institutions, schools, and students.

“We are trying to make schools a safer place,” says Clinical Research Coordinator, Alexander Osborn.

“We have created this artificial intelligence that is driven by natural language processing machine learning. The technology is able to detect language that is associated with aggression and language that is not associated with aggression. I hope that we will be able to build this AI’s understanding and we build it through the forensic interviews that we do.”

The assessment covers all spectrums of violence: verbal threats, physical aggression and bullying. Researchers plan to recruit 1,000 participants, from 10- to 17-years-old and ask participants a series of 28 questions. While the participants answer those questions, an automated, computerized system will analyze the responses, predict risk potentials, and improve prevention by helping inform recommendations.

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