Know! Help Your Student 2B Aware

It was the morning of February 27th when the unthinkable happened at a local Ohio high school: A teenager walked into the building with a loaded gun and opened fire. Three students were fatally shot, two were seriously wounded and hundreds of others feared for their lives.

How and why did this happen? Could it have been prevented? What can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again and how can we protect our children?

There are certainly many more questions than answers surrounding this horrific ordeal. And while we may never fully understand why tragedies like this happen, we can gain some insight by looking to the recent findings through the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Dept. of Education’s Safe School Initiative Report. In that report, we see that the characteristics of students who engaged in targeted school violence varied. However, all attackers were male, 76% were Caucasian, 63% came from two-parent families, 41% achieved A/B grades and socialized with mainstream students at the time of the attacks and 63% had not been in trouble at school prior. While substance abuse and diagnosed mental health disorders were not prevalent among attackers, 24% had a known history of alcohol or substance abuse and 10% were known to have been non-compliant with prescribed psychiatric medications. Many attackers reported feeling bullied or persecuted by others, but most of them had no history of prior violent or criminal behavior. However, the majority reported having difficulty coping with a significant loss or personal failure and had considered self harm or had attempted suicide previously.

This report also revealed that school-based attacks are rarely impulsive. In almost every case, the attacker displayed prior behavior that indicated a violent act was being planned. And in three out of four cases, at least one other person had knowledge about the plan. Unfortunately, even when other students have evidence of a planned attack, most do not come forward with information ahead of time. It appears some red flags had been raised prior to the Chardon school shooting as well, but those indicators either were not recognized, not reported or not taken seriously.

How can we protect our children? Based on research, one cannot simply look at another person and determine risk. While we do not want to instill fear and paranoia in our children, we do want to teach them to be in tune with their surroundings and aware of the people in their everyday world. Moreover, if a red flag presents itself in any way, empower your child to speak up and share the information quickly and appropriately with an adult. If it turns out to be nothing, that is ok. But if school-based violent attacks are to be prevented, students must be encouraged to not only voice their concerns, but adults must take those concerns seriously and intervene immediately.

For more information on the Safe School Initiative Report, click here.