Prior Knowledge of Potential School-Based Violence

Students are their best Safeguard

A 15 page Report prepared by the United States Secret Service and the Department of Education

This Report places the blame squarely on the Students who are trying to blame it on the guns Some excerpts from that Report,  based on by the Safe School Initiative (SSI) study:

That there are focus points based on the SSI study,

  • Incidents of targeted violence at schools rarely were sudden impulsive acts.
  • Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack.
  • There was no useful or accurate “profile” of students who engaged in targeted school violence.
  • 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.
  • Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement interventions.

The topics covered were:

  • What information was known by the bystander in advance of the attack?
  • What relationship did the bystander have to the perpetrator(s)?
  • Did the bystander share the information he or she learned of the planned violence with others?
  • Was the bystander alone in his or her knowledge of the planned attack or was there discussion with other bystanders? If there was discussion among several bystanders, was there an agreement among them as to whether to report the information?
  • How much did personal characteristics of the bystander as compared with issues related to the school climate influence the bystander’s decision regarding whether to come forward with the information?
  • What were the relationships and levels of interpersonal connections between the bystander and responsible adults?
  • In retrospect, how did the bystander feel about his or her decision regarding whether to take action? What advice would the bystander give others?

Why the students didn’t report what they knew:

  • The student made the threat or voiced the plan repeatedly and over a long period of time, had been engaged in what might be considered attention-seeking behaviors, and had made peculiar comments.
  • The described threat seemed unbelievable because it was so extreme. In one case, a bystander who had overheard some of the conspirators discussing their plans in great detail “didn’t think anything of it . . . [didn’t] think they would really do it” and therefore the bystander did not tell anyone.
  • The student’s tone when making the threat did not seem serious or it was thought he was joking. For instance, bystanders made comments such as “he kept eating his pizza while discussing the event” and “he’d say it violently but then laugh about it.”
  • The threats or statements were overt, repetitive, and/or clearly overheard by school personnel. This led the students to mistakenly believe that the threateners (and therefore the threats) were not serious.

What is the school’s  role in solving the problem?

  • Encourage students, staff, faculty, parents, and others to report all apparent threats or threatening or disturbing behaviors.
  • Provide several options for the reporting of threats, including reporting anonymously if necessary.
  • Ensure that all those who report a threat or threatening situation will be treated with respect and that the information they provide will be closely guarded.
  • Emphasize that the school will take appropriate action on all reports and will, within the confines of privacy laws, provide feedback to the reporting student that the information was received, and that appropriate action was taken.
  • Articulate what types of student information and knowledge can be shared, with whom it can be shared, and under what conditions it can be shared.
  • Be clear as to who is responsible for acting on information received regarding threats.
  • Where the law permits, include law enforcement and mental health officials in the review process.
  • Track threats over time so that the information collected regarding threats can be used in the decision-making process.

So, though there may be a problem with law enforcement response, the solution lies in identifying the potential problem, and addressing a solution before the problem manifests’ itself.

Those students in Washington, state capitols, or anywhere else, should be at their school and addressing the problem where the solution is readily available.

The entire report goes into much greater detail.

Prior Knowledge of Potential School-Based Violence  PDF (May 2008)

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