School violence is again making headlines. This time a gunman murdered an employee at a college bookstore.
After such horrific events, one always asks the question, “Can future violent school tragedies be prevented?”
The U.S. Secret Service produced, “Safe School Initiative,” in the aftermath of Columbine, which determined the following 10 findings that perhaps can provide crucial insights about preventing possible future acts of school violence:Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely are sudden, impulsive acts. Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack. Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack. There is no accurate or useful profile of students who engaged in targeted school violence. Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused others concern or indicated a need for help. Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Moreover, many had considered or attempted suicide. Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack. Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack. In many cases, other students were involved in some capacity. Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.
For more information on this comprehensive school safety report, go to www.secretservice.gov.
In addition, the National School Safety Center (NSSC) has come up with a perceptive checklist of the common characteristics of youths, based on past school violence incidents, which may indicate a young person’s potential for harming themselves or others:Has a history of tantrums and uncontrollable angry outbursts.Characteristically resorts to name calling, cursing or abusive language.Habitually makes violent threats when angry.Has previously brought a weapon to school.Has a background of serious disciplinary problems at school and in the community.Has a background of drug, alcohol, or other substance abuse or dependency.Is on the fringe of his/her peer group with few or no close friends.Is preoccupied with weapons, explosives or other incendiary devices.Has previously been truant, suspended or expelled from school.Displays cruelty to animals.Has little or no supervision and support from parents or a caring adult.Has witnessed or been a victim of abuse or neglect in the home.Has been bullied and/or bullies or intimidates peers or younger children.Tends to blame others for difficulties and problems s/he causes her/himself.Consistently prefers TV shows, movies or music expressing violent themes and acts. Prefers reading materials dealing with violent themes, rituals and abuse. Reflects anger, frustration and the dark side of life in school essays or writing projects.Is involved with a gang or an antisocial group on the fringe of peer acceptance. Is often depressed and/or has significant mood swings. Has threatened or attempted suicide.
For more information on this NSSC checklist, go to www.schoolsafety.us.
Of course nothing can predict with complete accuracy the potential for future school violence, however efforts by the Secret Service and the National School Safety Center can help to provide school administrators and faculty with possible indicators to identify students and others who may have the propensity for violence.
Further research and study are needed in this vital area of school violence prevention as our children and young adults are our country’s most precious and irreplaceable resource.
Copyright 2009 by Bruce Mandelblit
Bruce (Mandelblit.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com. This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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