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Preventing School Shootings_ Warning Signs and Threat ...

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Preventing School Shootings:Warning Signs and Threat Assessment
PeterLangman, Ph.D.www.schoolshooters.info
Language Warning:
Profanity and Violence
Prevention vs. Response
Emergency response: to minimize damage from an attackGoes into effect after an armed attacker arrives at the schoolThreat assessment: to prevent attacks by identifying potential threatsIntervention so that you don’t have an armed attacker showing up at the school
Threat Assessment
Purpose:to differentiate real threats from false alarms and guide intervention and follow-upDo not limit inquiry to the studentMay need to includeFaculty, staff, administratorsPeersFamilyComputer
Where Warning Signs Appear
Orally: conversation, videosWritings: journal, online, social media, school assignments, lettersComputer searchesBedrooms
Responsiveness vs. Knee-Jerk Reactions
Maintaining safety awareness is different than panic and paranoia2” plastic army manCheese shaped like a pistol8-year-old boy in psychiatric hospital13-year-old suspended for singing a song
Punishment is Not Prevention
Suspension/expulsion do not eliminate the dangerMay increase anger or sense of rejection/failure/hopelessnessOut of school may mean out of sight of supervisionStudents could be obtaining weapons, making plans, etc.Does not resolve the concernSuspended/expelled students have committed school shootings
Warning Signs
Warning signs arecommentsandbehaviorsthat indicate someone is planning an attackLeakageAttack-related behaviors
Leakage
Bragging about upcoming attackWarning people to stay awayTrying to recruit peer to help with attackAdmiring/imitating other shootersPosting writings, photos, videos that suggest/indicate impending violenceThreats
Leakage: Threats
Direct threat to intended victim“When I come back with a rifle, you’re going to be the one I shoot.”Indirect threat about an intended victim“The principal won’t live to see Homecoming.”Implied threat“You better watch your back if you’re going to flunk me.”“Youknow who I am and what is going to happen.”
Attack-Related Behavior
Diagramming the schoolWriting a hit-listPlanning attackObtaining weapons/materialsRehearsing: practicing with guns/bombsSelecting intended victims
The Karl Pierson Attack
September, 2013: Pierson made homicidal threat against teacherSchool knew of threat and investigatedThreat assessment result: low riskDecember, 2013: Pierson committed shootingKilled one studentTried to kill teacherHad plans to kill several othersKilled himself
Lessons Learned: Karl Pierson Attack
Do not limit inquiry to potential perpetratorDo not do a “once and done” assessmentRisk level is dynamic and can change quicklyDon’t under-communicateMake sure people are trainedMust educate students about reportingKarl is “The type of person who could bring a gun to school”He is “honestly scary. Like he’s going to hurt us.”
Evidence of Imminence
“Sometimes I feel like just getting a gun from somewhere and going on a rampage.”“I stole my Dad’s shotgun and Friday at noon I’m getting revenge in the cafeteria.”More details more imminent riskTime, place, method, access to means
Grandiose Fantasies
“It’ll be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam…all mixed together.”“We will hijack a hell of a lot of bombs and crash a plane into NYC.”“I have a goal to destroy as much as possible. . . I want to burn the world.”“I say “KILL MANKIND” no one should survive.”
“First we will go to the house of ---- and ---- in the morning before school starts. . . We go in, we silently kill each inhabitant and then pin down ---- and ----. Then take our sweet time pissing on them, spitting on them, and just torturing the hell out of them. Once we are done there we set time bombs to burn the houses down. . . then get totally prepared and during A-lunch we go in and park in our spots. With sunglasses on we start carrying in all of our bags of terrorism and anarchism shit into our table. Being very casual and silent about it. It’s all for a science/band/English project or something. Then, we sit down, play some pump-up music, light a $50 stogie, and get ready to start throwing out the first wave of crickets [small bombs]. Then we light them and throw them as far as we can. . . Then I open fire. . . Then if we can we go upstairs and go to each classroom and pick off fuckers at our will.”
Warning Signs: Golden and Johnson
Johnson: 13 years oldtold peer, “some people are going to die”“he said he wasgonnakill a lot of people”“all my girlfriends who ever broke up with me, I amgonnakill them”“he said he was going to ‘cut school tomorrow and bring a gun to school, and we’d find out if we’d live or die.’told girl if she went outside the next day during fifth period, she would dieHe said “he was going on a killing spree”said he was going to “get back at some people from last year” and “kill them and stuff”
Warning Signs: Golden and Johnson
Golden: 11 years old:He told a girl that he and his friend were going to pull the fire alarm, set up a sniper position in a field, and shoot people as they exited the building. Two days after this, however, he said he wasn’t going to go through with it.Later, he stood on a table in the cafeteria during lunch and said, “You’re all going to die.”
Barriers to Reporting
Denial: GeneralIt can’t happen in our town/school.Denial: SpecificHe would never do it.He’s too young/small.He’s from a good family.I know the parents.
Barriers to Reporting
FearOf perpetrator—don’t want to make him angryDon’t want to get him in troubleOf over-reacting, of not having sufficient informationOf getting involved
Barriers to Reporting
Faulty reasoningHe said he didn’t mean it/wasn’t going to do it.He’s weird, he always says strange things.He’s been saying that for months and hasn’t done anything.If he were going to do it, he wouldn’t announce it.
Barriers for Staff
“We don’t want to stigmatize him.”“We don’t want the parents to sue us.”“We referred him to a psychologist—it’s out of our hands.”“We’re not allowed to break confidentiality.” (FERPA)
FERPA vs. Safety
FERPA “allows schools to take key steps to maintain school safety.”“If a teacher overhears a student making threatening remarks to other students,FERPAdoes not protect that information.”“In an emergency, FERPA permits school officials to disclose without consent.”“Balancing Student Privacy and School Safety: A Guide to theFamily Educational Rights and Privacy Actfor Elementary and Secondary Schools,” U.S. Dept. of Education
Warning Signs in Assignments
Student Writings
Guidelines are neatLife is messyWhat you see is often the tip of the icebergWhen do you look for what might be hidden?
Case Example #1
Multiple writings (fiction/nonfiction) aboutMilitaryWeaponsFirearm lawsSchool shootingsResearch paper on NazisGrandfather served in WWII; father served in military; grew up on military bases
Case Example #1
List 25 things that make you differentmy bullet hanging from my rearview mirrormy knowledge of fireworksmy knowledge of conventional/amateur explosivesmy anger management problemsthe large collection of bullet shells I have
Case Example #1
Pick the most important item and write about it“Doom is so burned into my head my thoughts usually have something to do with the game.”“What I can’t do in real life, I try to do in Doom.”
Case Example #1
“When I had to give away all my weapons to my parents. It was after I got into serious trouble with the law.”“What’s 35% of 100? I think that this is absolutely ridiculous, people who can’t answer questions like that should be shot. . . It’s a pity natural selection doesn’t apply to humans.”
Case Example #1
Pick a song that best expresses who you areStray Bullet: “I believe that this song describes my actions and thoughts the best. I have often been described by my friends and even family as a ‘stray bullet.’”Imagine yourself as inanimate objectHe chose a shotgun shell: wrote about his significant other being a shotgun and his wish being “to kill”In psychology class, discussed dreams of shooting people
Case Example #1
“I want to take that sax and toss it into a vat of molten steel along with its owner or maybe charge into their gay little night club blasting away with an AR-15 and kill everyone of thosepunkasshappy jazzy fuck sticks.”
Case Example #1
Video Production ClassHe and a friend make film about two boys who hire themselves out as hitmenFilm themselves gunning down studentsWritten part of project:“The business is basically to kill people who anger our clients.”
Case Example #1
2ndStudentReport on Charles Manson“The question of whether or not he is insane is a question of opinion; which cannot have a ‘true’ right answer.”Manson and his family can “logically explain his actions.”
Case Example #1
2ndstudent: short story of man murdering students“He stopped, and gave me a look I will never forget. If I could face an emotion of god, it would have looked like the man. I not only saw in his face, but also felt emanating from him power, complacence, closure, and godliness. The man smiled, and in that instant, thru no endeavor of my own, I understood his actions.”
Case Example #1
Killer in short story was described as:6’4” tallLeft-handedWore black trench coatThe student was:6’4” tallLeft-handedWore black trench coat
What Others Knew
They committed neighborhood vandalismThey set off home-made bombsThey took bomb to workHis parents found bomb at homeHis webpages had details about making bombsHis webpages had explicit homicidal rants, even mentioning specific person to kill
What Others Knew
Talked about killing people, blowing up schoolSaid he needed lot of propane tanks for Hitler’s birthdaySaid in class that unfit people deserved to be killedTried to get friends to buy him guns; got guns illegally; sawed off barrels (felony)
What Others Knew
Planned to make video of him and friend shooting people in school cafeteriaLife revolved around guns; all he ever talked aboutJoked about senior prank of riding dirt bikes through school and shooting it upOnline chat: “I would love to say . . . you don’t deserve to live, you are worthless, die.”Wrote in peer’s yearbook: “natural selection needs a boost, like me with a shotgun”
Case Example #2
“Romeo and Juliet” assignment: write from point of view of one of the characters:Student chose Tybalt“But you know me, I loathe all of them. . . I am no longer blind in my hatred, I can see with my hate. . . Blood will flow until they are all dead. . . [after killing Mercutio] This was the first moment in my life where I had taken the life of another. I loved it, it dispelled all the anger and animosity I was feeling.”
Case Example #2
Teacher reports he called out in class, “God damn these voices in my head.”When asked if he were hearing voices, he said no, that the line is from a songTeacher reports that he gave an oral report on how to build bombs from household materials
Case Example #2
“No, I don't believe in love at first sight because love is an evil plot to make people buy alcohol and firearms. . . That is why you go to a pawn shop and buy an AR-15 because you are going to execute every last mother fucking one of you. . . I plan to live in a big black hole. My firearms and [illegible] will be the only things to fight my isolation. I would also like to point out Love is a horrible thing. It makes things kill and hate.”
Warning Signs at School
Talked about making bombs, being next UnabomberLiked Jonesboro shooting:“cool,” “someone should do that around here”Said he might commit school shootingSaid he might bomb the school during a pep rallyTried to recruit a peer to join the attackPeers sold him guns three times
This Case: Kip Kinkel
“We’d crafted preventive measures. We’d created a safety wall, but the rules we set up were ignored when the moment of truth arrived. They were not followed because, quite simply, he wasKinkel. Instead of considering the fact of the gun, they considered the family of the boy who was caught with it.”Assistant Principal
Case Example #3
MurderIt’s my first murderI’m at the point of no returnI can’t let him live nowHe’d go to the cops for sureSo I finishI look at his body on the floor,Killing a bastard that deserves to die,Ain’tnothing like it in the world,But he sure did bleed a lot.
Case Example #3
QuotedNatural Born Killers: “Murder is pure. People make it impure.”Talked about wanting to kill 15-20 small animals.“He said it would be fun and good adventure to go on a killing spree.”Talked about his desire to kill somebody before he dies.“It would be cool to kill people . . . to try to get away with it.”“Some people don’t deserve to live; some people should just die or be killed.”He told a girl who rejected him that he was going to kill her.
Case Example #3
Made threatening comment to peer.”Do you treasure your life?”Told someone else he was going to kill the peer.“If I had a gun right now, I wonder what I’d do?”Said he was going to kill a teacher.He asked a girl, “Do you think you deserve to live?”Showed father’s gun collection to friend and talked about where he could get ammunition.
Domains to Investigate
Leakage and attack-related behaviorRecent or impending losses, failures, rejections, blows to identity, conflictsCapability of killingDesperate, enraged, believe others deserve to dieEvidence of imminence
Communication
You are not in this alone.If concerned, trust your reaction.Consult/communicate.InternallyExternally (police)Work with a team.

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