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Strength in Numbers: Using Data Science to Decrease School Violence

Technology   |   Lori Misenhimer   |   Jul 16, 2020

Every year, more than 2.7 million reports of violence plague America’s K-12 schools. From bullying to threats, cyberstalking to school shootings, youth violence has serious and lasting effects on the physical, mental, and social health of young people.

Youth violence is a leading cause of death for young people and results in more than 400,000 nonfatal injuries each year. (

As a parent — or anyone for that matter — it’s hard not to stop and wonder what you can do to help.

Dr. Paul Privateer felt the same sense of urgency. How he could reach out to students before a tragedy?

He began making mental notes of shared behaviors like slipping grades, antisocial tendencies, unjustified hostility, and more — was there a pattern?

Unfortunately, reports that documented potential behavioral concerns (such as academics, police, accidents, etc.) all served as disparate sources of information which made it challenging to connect the dots.

However, he knew he was onto something when he discovered that the CDC, the World Health Organization, Department of Justice, FBI, and the UN all recognized the same 12 risk factors of violence.

“Embedded in big data are patterns we can’t see, like how behavior correlates to violence,” said Privateer. “By putting these strings of patterned behavior together (poor grades, acting out, antisocial, breakups, hostility, anger) and tying those results to the most common risk factors of violence, we can identify risks and intervene.”

“Traditional trend reports may be valuable but have zero analytic capacity to discover and understand patterns in school violence. Little effort is being made to develop different kinds of databases that contextualize school violence in different ways,” said Privateer.

It’s Time School Violence Research Enters the Age of Big Data

To address this need, Privateer created Seattle-based non-profit, a volunteer, federal 501(c)(3) supported by a diverse community of researchers and tech donors committed to two projects, ATHENA, and The Lantern, that use Alteryx to better gather and analyze data. is currently seeking volunteers to help reduce school violence by integrating academic-scientific work, AI technologies, and policies that together shape a holistic approach to reducing school violence.

“We are insight pattern hunters asking leading data technology companies and volunteers to join us at the table to stop this national tragedy,” said Privateer.

The Projects

ATHENA: A database that identifies currently unrecognized school violence patterns to help educators understand more about the nature and causes of violence and plan for new ways of reducing it before events happen.

Project Goals:

  • Collect existential data ignored by typical government school violence trend data databases.
  • Harvest data significance into an easy to use Alteryx + Tableau interface.
  • Make it available to schools, researchers, health professionals, state education departments, local school boards and local, state, and federal security agencies.

LANTERN: A chatbot app that identifies currently unrecognized correlations between a child’s behaviors at home and school, and their aggregation as a factor in prompting school violence. This helps parents and educators understand more about the nature and causes of school violence and plan for new ways of reducing it before events happen. The app is still only a prototype but is expected to be released by December 2020 at no cost to the public.

Project Goals:

  • Create a behavioral analytics app correlating a child’s observed behaviors with statistically significant form of violence that show clear moderate to high associations.
  • Create an intervention success app that identifies those intervention programs having the best results for certain behavioral strings needing support.
  • Make an easy-to-use search app available to parents, teachers, school officials, school health professionals, and safety resource personnel that help create communities of support for children needing emotional care.

The projects are an effort to open the door to new kinds of analytic methods that may do a better job in understanding the nature, causes, and likely scenarios of and for school violence.
“We believe that advances in the data sciences can provide new ways of reducing school violence, especially those like AI, Natural Language, Deep Learning, and interactive data visualization tools,” said Privateer.

“Minimal advances in reducing school violence need to become significant advances,” said Privateer.

“What’s cool about Alteryx is that it helps you understand the data visually, and provides opportunities for conversations,” said Privateer.

Visual data creates the likelihood of shareability of information, and school violence is reduced when more people are involved.”

As schools prepare to reopen soon, Privateer warns that school resumption after the pandemic heightens the chance of more school violence given that our children’s social and emotional world has been disrupted by uncertainty, insecurity and diminished social skills.

This re-entry makes the work of particularly important because far greater concern on a school’s precaution plans overshadow the equally important concern with our children’s emotional well-being.

Privateer and the staff at NoSchoolViolence welcome ideas and volunteer support from the Alteryx community. Please contact Paul at [email protected].

For more Alteryx skill-based volunteering options email: [email protected]

Will you be the one to step up and make a difference?

For more information, visit:


For more information on Alteryx for Good, visit our Community page. Here, you can engage with other nonprofits and our volunteer network. Our website also provides details on how you can get involved in skill-based projects.