School Mass Violence

Given our special relationship with so many education clients, it seems timely to share some information about Crisis Response and Prevention.  A few important points relating to school shootings:
  1. In nearly every school shooting incident, the investigation reveals that one or more adults would have identified the shooter as a potential threat.  Often, the individual’s teachers or counselors found indications of violent or sociopathic behaviors.
  2. Only about 1/3 of the attackers had ever received a mental health evaluation, and only about 1/5 had been diagnosed with a mental health problem; however, a full 78% had exhibited suicidal behaviors – either suicide attempts or threats of committing suicide.
  3. Very few of the attackers actually state a clear and definable threat to their intended victims.
  4. In nearly 1/2 of the school shooting cases, a faculty member is the intended target.
  5. Law enforcement (both the FBI and the Secret Service have studied this matter) has concluded that there is not a useful pattern or profile that can identify the potential attackers with accuracy.  Almost none of the attackers have a criminal arrest record prior to the shooting.
  6. The attacks are almost always planned and premeditated well before the incident.
  7. Investigators have concluded that revenge is a major motivator in nearly every school shooting incident.  In most cases, the shooter stated some general grievances to others before the shooting.

Our conclusion is that your counseling staff and faculty will find it difficult to identify a specific student or member of the community as an overt threat.  However, there are often subtle indicators of a problem, and we encourage you to stay vigilant in trying to identify persons that may pose a threat.

It is also a good time to revisit your school’s Crisis and Emergency plan.  Nearly all of our school customers purchase a “Pro Response” program, which provides $50,000 of coverage to fund public relations and grief counseling costs.  The plan works most effectively if your school has pre-selected vendors and resources before the crisis occurs. We encourage you to start thinking about these resources now, so that you have a clear road map of how to react and to call in resources.  Another important strategy is making contact with first responders in your area.  For example, has your school ever hosted the local fire/police/medical responders to meet with your facilities and security team?  That approach usually helps to build interpersonal relationships and a sense of mutual support.