There are significant reports by the United States Secret Service and the United States Department of Education on school violence. These documents are continually referenced in my school violence prevention security vulnerability assessments, articles and keynotes.
One report is titled “The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in The United States.” The document deserves to be studied in its entirety, but it highlights 10 key findings, which are as follows:
– Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely were 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.
It is important to note that although these findings were published in 2002, they are still a factor in attacks throughout America.
United States Secret Service/Threat Assessment Guide
Another report is titled, “Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates.”
This document also deserves to be studied in its entirety. But for the sake of brevity, it highlights the 10 findings in the safe school initiative report and encourages fostering a culture of respect and breaking the “code of silence.”
This study also emphasizes that the primary purpose of a threat assessment is to prevent targeted violence.
Averting Targeted School Violence
The newest report of the U.S. Secret Service is titled, “Averting Targeted School Violence, A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools.” The report deserves to be studied in its entirely, as do all Secret Service school violence reports. For the purpose of this article, a summary of the report is as follows:
– Targeted school violence is preventable when communities identify warning signs and intervene.
– Schools should seek to intervene with students before their behavior warrants legal consequences.
– Students were most often motivated to plan a school attack because of a grievance with classmates.
– Students are best positioned to identify and report concerning behaviors displayed by their classmates.
– The role of parents and families in recognizing concerning behavior is critical to prevention.
– School resource officers (SROs) play an important role in school violence prevention.
– Removing a student from class does not eliminate the risk they might pose to themselves or others.
– Students displaying an interest in violent or hate-filled topics should elicit immediate assessment and intervention.
– Many school attack plots were associated with certain dates, particularly in the month of April.
– Many of the student’s plotters had access to weapons, including unimpeded access to firearms.
Securing American Schools Demands the Preventive System
It has been my privilege to share findings from the Secret Service Report to educators, staff and law enforcement throughout the United States.
But, in my opinion, these reports need to be complemented by the Preventive Pedagogy of Education, which I have also incorporated into my presentations and articles.
These are some of the principles of the Preventive Pedagogy of Education that are critical to safeguarding our schools and developing a nation of character. They must be cultivated in America’s schools, and are applicable not only to teachers but to law enforcement, especially school resource officers, and all staff:
– Teachers inspire admiration, as they care for youth entrusted to their care.
– Teachers are respected as individuals with character and motivate the same in their students.
– The edifice of the preventive system is character and its pillars are respect, responsibility, fairness and citizenship.
– A vigilant presence is exercised to prevent inappropriate behavior and reward proper behavior.
– Improvements with behavior are motivated through kindness and respect rather than punishment.
– A collaborative and speedy intervention to warning signs takes place due to the educator’s presence and awareness.
– Educators influence through positive attitudes, professionalism and approachability.
– Discipline can be as effective as an expression of disappointment or a reproachful look because the student admires the teacher and is loyal and respectful.
– Students are affirmed for their qualities and do not lose heart when mistakes are made because the educator emphasizes the good in the student and encourages them through a positive attidtude.
– Students are encouraged to do what is right through the teacher’s patience, guidance and understanding.