Monday, April 09, 2018

Safe Schools, Beyond Gun Control: What Malloy, Murphy and Blumenthal Are Not Telling You

This is a digest of information included in The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative


THE FINAL REPORT AND FINDINGS OF THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF SCHOOL ATTACKS IN THE UNITED STATES UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 

Overview of Safe School Initiative Findings


The findings of the Safe School Initiative suggest that there are productive actions that educators, law enforcement officials, and others can pursue in response to the problem of targeted school violence. Specifically, Initiative findings suggest that these officials may wish to consider focusing their efforts to formulate strategies for preventing these attacks in two principal areas:

• developing the capacity to pick up on and evaluate available or knowable information that might indicate that there is a risk of a targeted school attack; and,

• employing the results of these risk evaluations or "threat assessments" in developing strategies to prevent potential school attacks from occurring. Support for these suggestions is found in 10 key findings of the Safe School Initiative study. These findings 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.13

• 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…

The findings of researchers’ analysis of the 37 incidents of targeted school violence that were examined under the Safe School Initiative fall generally into five areas:

• characterizing the attacker;

• conceptualizing the attack;

• signaling the attack;

• advancing the attack; and,

• resolving the attack.

The findings in each of these areas are presented and explained below.

Finding -- Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack…

Finding -- A history of having been the subject of a mental health evaluation, diagnosed with a mental disorder, or involved in substance abuse did not appear to be prevalent among attackers. However, most attackers showed some history of suicidal attempts or thoughts, or a history of feeling extreme depression or desperation…

Finding -- Over half of the attackers demonstrated some interest in violence, through movies, video games, books, and other media (59 percent, n=24). However, there was no one common type of interest in violence indicated. Instead, the attackers’ interest in violent themes took various forms…

Finding -- Most attackers had no history of prior violent or criminal behavior…

Finding --  Most attackers were known to have had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Moreover, many had considered or attempted suicide…

Conceptualizing the Attack


Finding Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely are sudden, impulsive acts.

Revenge was a motive for more than half of the attackers (61 percent, n=25). Other motives included trying to solve a problem (34 percent, n=14); suicide or desperation (27 percent, n=11); and efforts to get attention or recognition (24 percent, n=10). More than half of the attackers had multiple motives or reasons for their schoolbased attacks (54 percent, n=22). In addition, most of the attackers held some sort of grievance at the time of the attack, either against their target(s) or against someone else (81 percent, n=33). Many attackers told other people about these grievances prior to their attacks (66 percent, n=27).23…

Signaling the Attack


Finding Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack…

In most cases, other people knew about the attack before it took place. In over three-quarters of the incidents, at least one person had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning the school attack (81 percent, n=30). In nearly twothirds of the incidents, more than one person had information about the attack before it occurred (59 percent, n=22). In nearly all of these cases, the person who knew was a peer–a friend, schoolmate, or sibling (93 percent, n=28/30). Some peers knew exactly what the attacker planned to do; others knew something "big" or "bad" was going to happen, and in several cases knew the time and date it was to occur. An adult had information about the idea or plan in only two cases…

Finding --  Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack…

Finding --  Most attackers engaged in some behavior, prior to the incident, that caused others concern or indicated a need for help…

Almost all of the attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the attack that caused others–school officials, parents, teachers, police, fellow students–to be concerned (93 percent, n=38). In most of the cases, at least one adult was concerned by the attacker’s behavior (88 percent, n=36). In three-quarters of the cases, at least three people–adults and other children–were concerned by the attacker’s behavior (76 percent, n=31). In one case, for example, the attacker made comments to at least 24 friends and classmates about his interest in killing other kids, building bombs, or carrying out an attack at the school. A school counselor was so concerned about this student’s behavior that the counselor asked to contact the attacker’s parents. The attacker’s parents also knew of his interest in guns…

Advancing the Attack


Finding -- In many cases, other students were involved in the attack in some capacity…

Finding -- Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack…

Resolving the Attack


Finding --  Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most attacks were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.

Most school-based attacks were stopped through intervention by school administrators, educators, and students or by the attacker stopping on his own. In about one-third of the incidents, the attacker was apprehended by or surrendered to administrators, faculty, or school staff (27 percent, n=10) or to students (5 percent, n=2). In just over one-fifth of the incidents, the attacker stopped on his own or left the school (22 percent, n=8). In a few incidents, the attacker killed himself during the course of the incident (13 percent, n=5). Just over one-quarter of the incidents were stopped through law enforcement intervention (27 percent, n=10). Law enforcement personnel discharged weapons in only three of the incidents of targeted school violence studied (8 percent, n=3)…

The 10 key findings that the authors believe may have implications for the development of strategies to address the problem of targeted school violence are as follows:

• 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…

The Implications of Key Study Findings

Key Finding 1 -- Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely are sudden, impulsive acts…

Key Finding 2 -- Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack. In most cases, those who knew were other kids–friends, schoolmates, siblings, and others. However, this information rarely made its way to an adult…

First and foremost, this finding suggests that students can be an important part of prevention efforts. A friend or schoolmate may be the first person to hear that a student is thinking about or planning to harm someone. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, those who have information about a potential incident of targeted school violence may not alert an adult on their own. Schools can encourage students to report this information in part by identifying and breaking down barriers in the school environment that inadvertently may discourage students from coming forward with this information. Schools also may benefit from ensuring that they have a fair, thoughtful, and effective system to respond to whatever information students do bring forward. If students have concerns about how adults will react to information that they bring forward, they may be even less inclined to volunteer such information…

Key Finding 4 -- There is no accurate or useful profile of students who engaged in targeted school violence…

Rather than trying to determine the "type" of student who may engage in targeted school violence, an inquiry should focus instead on a student’s behaviors and communications to determine if that student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack. Rather than asking whether a particular student "looks like" those who have launched school-based attacks before, it is more productive to ask whether the student is engaging in behaviors that suggest preparations for an attack, if so how fast the student is moving toward attack, and where intervention may be possible…

Key Finding 5 -- Most attackers engaged in some behavior, prior to the incident, that caused others concern or indicated a need for help…

Several key findings point to the fact that kids send signals–both directly and indirectly–to others regarding their problems. The boys who engaged in the targeted school violence examined by the Safe School Initiative were not "invisible" students. In fact nearly all of these students engaged in behaviors--prior to their attacks--that caused concern to at least one person, usually an adult, and most concerned at least three people…

Key Finding 6 -- Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Many had considered or attempted suicide…

Key Finding 7 -- Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack…

Key Finding 8 --  Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack…

Access to weapons among some students may be common. However, when the idea of an attack exists, any effort to acquire, prepare, or use a weapon or ammunition may be a significant move in the attacker’s progression from idea to action. Any inquiry should include investigation of and attention to weapon access and use and communications about weapons. Attention should also be given to indications of any efforts by a student to build a bomb or acquire bomb-making components…

Key Finding 9 -- In many cases, other students were involved in the attack in some capacity…

This finding highlights the importance of considering what prompting or encouragement a student may receive from others in his life that influences his intent, planning, or preparations for a potential attack. Any investigation of potential targeted school violence should include attention to the role that a student’s friends or peers may be playing in that student’s thinking about and preparations for an attack. It is possible that feedback from friends or others may help to move a student from an unformed thought about attacking to developing and advancing a plan to carry out the attack…

Key Finding 10 -- Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most attacks were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention, and most were brief in duration…

The short duration of most incidents of targeted school violence argues for the importance of developing preventive measures in addition to any emergency planning for a school or school district. The preventive measures should include protocols and procedures for responding to and managing threats and other behaviors of concern…

Taken together, the findings from the Safe School Initiative suggest that some future attacks may be preventable. Most incidents of targeted school violence were thought out and planned in advance. The attackers’ behavior suggested that they were planning or preparing for an attack. Prior to most incidents, the attackers’ peers knew the attack was to occur. And most attackers were not "invisible," but already were of concern to people in their lives. In light of these findings, the use of a threat assessment approach may be a promising strategy for preventing a school-based attack. Educators, law enforcement officials and others with public safety responsibilities may be able to prevent some incidents of targeted school violence if they know what information to look for and what to do with such information when it is found. In sum, these officials may benefit from focusing their efforts on formulating strategies for preventing these attacks in two principal areas:

• developing the capacity to pick up on and evaluate available or knowable information that might indicate that there is a risk of a targeted school attack; and,

• employing the results of these risk evaluations or "threat assessments" in developing strategies to prevent potential school attacks from occurring. Threat Assessment and Targeted School Violence Prevention Threat assessment, as developed by the Secret Service and applied in the context of targeted school violence, is a fact-based investigative and analytical approach that focuses on what a particular student is doing and saying, and not on whether the student "looks like" those who have attacked schools in the past. Threat assessment emphasizes the importance of such behavior and communications for identifying, evaluating and reducing the risk posed by a student who may be thinking about or planning for a school-based attack. The Department of Education and the Secret Service currently are completing work on a publication that will provide school administrators and law enforcement officials with guidance on planning and implementing a threat assessment approach within school settings.30 In relying on a fact-based threat assessment approach, school officials, law enforcement professionals and others involved in the assessment will need tools, mechanisms and legal processes that can facilitate their efforts to gather and analyze information regarding a student’s behavior and communications. For example, school and law enforcement personnel should be offered training regarding what information to gather, how to gather and evaluate it, and how they might try to intervene in cases where the information collected suggests a student may be planning or preparing for a school-based attack.




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