In May 2002 the Secret Service published a report (Safe School Initiative) that examined 37 US school shootings. They had the following findings:
– Incidents of targeted violence at school were rarely 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
How can schools and communities help avoid this type of violence?
– Assess the school’s emotional climate.
– Emphasize the importance of listening in schools.
– Adopt a strong, but caring stance against the code of silence.
– Prevent, and intervene in, cases of bullying.
– Involve all members of the school community in planning, creating and sustaining a school culture of safety and respect.
– Develop trusting relationships between each student and at least one adult at school.
– Create mechanisms for developing and sustaining safe school climates.