Not every threat to a school comes from within the school. There were numerous instances this past school year where threats or incidents perpetrated by someone outside of the school caused a crisis within the school.
Let's take a look at the impact of outside forces on the safety of our schools:
- Perhaps the most tragic example of an outside influence coming into the school with devastating consequences is the April 10 shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernadino California. A teacher's estranged husband entered the building and attacked the classroom resulting in the death of the teacher and a student. It's critical for schools to be informed of and act upon restraining or protection orders, as well as other circumstances where domestic violence has the potential to spill over into the school. Parents, staff, and other stakeholders need to keep the school informed about concerns and potential threats of an individual trying to access someone who is at the school. It's equally important for the school to stay current and vigilant when screening visitors.
- Some times an incident at a school is a diversion for a crime to be committed elsewhere. Several bomb threats targeting schools this year were later found to be a diversion, such as a series of bomb threats in Rock County Wisconsin that impacted more than 26 schools to distract from the robbery of a local gun shop.
- In other situations, the poor judgement or even malicious intent of parents can impact the school. A rumor started by a parent on Facebook in Eugene Oregon lead to a school shooting scare. An irate parent in Middletown New York threatened to blow up his son's elementary school, causing the school to evacuate. When a parent in Rhode Island attempted to cover up her son's theft of the principal's nameplate, the anonymous package in which she mailed back the nameplate resulted in bomb scare.
- A tragedy was narrowly averted at an elementary school in Florida in March. During the parent-pick up line at dismissal, a 3 year old child found a gun in the glove box of his mother's car and discharged the weapon out of the car's window at the school. Luckily no one was hurt. School safety planning needs to consider threats and incidents that originate from circumstances that can be far outside of the school's control.
For more information about the Educator's School Safety Network's ongoing research about school-based violent incidents and threats, head to: http://eschoolsafety.org/bir/