September 25th, 2018 | School Security | 0 Comments
By William J. Smith & Stephanie Kent
The teenager responsible for the lost lives of eight students and two teachers at Santa Fe High School did not go far to find his rifle and pistol of choice. Like many other teenage school shooters, this individual stole his father’s guns in order to carry out this massacre. According to a 2004 U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education study¹, he joins an overwhelming two thirds of students who obtain firearms from their own homes or from relatives’ homes in order to commit violent acts at schools. Not only does the study itself provide valuable insight, but the mere date of the study should indicate something even more terrifying! How is it that this information about deadly firearms trends was revealed 14 years ago, yet students are still readily accessing guns in the house and bringing them to school?
We have seen these mass school shootings over and over and over… why do they continue?
- 1. Easy access to guns – too many minors are retrieving guns from their own homes to carry out violent acts. What can we do to prevent this?
- Child Access Prevention (CAP) Laws: A 2005 study showed that in 18 states, the implementation of child access prevention laws has decreased the number of injuries among minors by one third.²
- Safe Storage: Storing guns in a locked safe, inaccessible to minors at all times, will aid in deterring teenagers from last-minute decisions to commit these heinous acts.
- 2. Underestimating the importance of cues – nearly all of the school shooters we’ve seen in the last decade have shown signs of potential violence that went unnoticed. Where can we look for these signs?
- Social Media: it is extremely rare for indications of potential violence to be absent in mass murderers, especially in the midst of our world’s social media craze. Many recent mass shooters were noted for other missed warnings as well (e.g. run-ins with police, domestic violence, delight in torturing animals, etc.). Family members and friends of these perpetrators, however, are either unaware of these signs, or they underestimate them and interpret them as normal responses to hormonal changes and teenage rebellion. In the Santa Fe case, for example, the shooter had posted Facebook pictures of his new custom-made shirt that read “Born to Kill” and a trench coat adorned with several pins symbolizing Nazi Germany, the Communist Party, etc. When observing these cues, parents should at least confront the child and discuss these issues, and schedule a psychiatric assessment of the child.
- Psychiatric Evaluations: these should be mandatory for all children who display signs of acute inner turmoil, and for all children who express any type of interest in violence.
- Teachers’ Reports and School Work: Parents must be involved in their child’s school work and teacher reports. The Sandy Hook shooter, for example, wrote excessively graphic pieces about death and war in school, which was brought to the parents’ attention. Knowledge of this will undoubtedly help parents to prevent future acts of violence if appropriate measures are taken.
- 3. School security failures – lack of high quality (and even functional) surveillance systems, security guards, and safety measures can always be improved.
- While the debate about gun control continues, schools need to maintain security measures. Camera systems and safety protocols MUST be updated, tested and utilized regularly throughout the year.
There are always elements of shootings that cannot be controlled, but there are several elements that can always be controlled, and that will undoubtedly preclude or prevent injury or loss of life. . It is our job as parents to keep any owned handguns or other lethal weapons locked away safely. We must report any overt acts or statements by individuals that could indicate a propensity for violence. And demand the School district hire a qualified Security Professional to conduct a comprehensive Security Assessment to determine if the district has appropriate safeguards in place and individuals who are trained to respond appropriately during any emergency situation.
About The Authors
Having served as a security consultant to government, education, and industry, William J. Smith is the Managing Member of AmericanSchoolSafety.com. The firm provides instruction, training, and guidance in all matters of school safety, security, and emergency management. Mr. Smith may be reached via contact information provided at https://www.americanschoolsafety.com/ or by calling 866-531-6560.
Stephanie Kent graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. During her undergraduate Yale career, she received high honors in various journalism seminars taught by renowned authors and journalists such as Steven Brill and Bruce Shapiro. Among her favorite Yale courses was Forensic Anthropology, where she led facial reconstruction and postmortem identification tasks. Stephanie gained valuable field experience as a criminal intelligence analyst with an agency in Oklahoma. She is also proud to travel the world as a professional tennis player on the WTA circuit.