Another Textbook Tragedy

Yesterday’s school shooting in Spokane is all too familiar not just because it was a shooting in a school (25% of all mass shootings happen in schools), but because the pre-attack behaviors of the perpetrator are almost exactly like those of the many school attackers that preceded him. In many ways, it’s a textbook case:

  • The attacker shares social media images of himself with a gun or simulating shootings. In this case the shooter was known for his “antics” on his violent YouTube channel.
  • The attacker tells people in advance that he is on a path to violence. The Spokane shooter passed notes to other students tell them he was going to do “something stupid”.

According to the Safe School Initiative Study of school shootings, 81% of the time attackers warn someone overtly before the attack.  93% of the time there is specific evidence of planning and preparation for the shooting. More than half of all school shootings are over before police arrive, with civilians (like the student and the custodian) intervening 2/3 of the time. That is exactly what happened at Freeman High School yesterday.

Research and bitter experience tells us how the next school shooter is already behaving. We can make fairly accurate predictions about what will happen and what the response will look like. The only question that remains is-  Why don’t we do something about it?

Through threat assessment management, violence can be prevented by intervening with individuals who are exhibiting behaviors of concern – they are begging us to stop them. And while we cannot prevent every act of violence, adequate, appropriate training for educators and students can help to minimize the damage and save lives. 

Let’s stop watching these tragedies unfold and do something to stop them.

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