School shootingsMost School Shootings May Be Predicted, Prevented: Secret Service

Published 7 November 2019

Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Columbine—these are but a few of the school shootings in which many lives were lost. Could these shootings have been predicted – and prevented? Most students who carried out deadly school shootings first displayed threatening or suspicious behavior that went unreported, according to an analysis released Thursday by the U.S. Secret Service.

Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Columbine—these are but a few of the school shootings in which many lives were lost. Could these shootings have been predicted – and prevented?

Most students who carried out deadly school shootings first displayed threatening or suspicious behavior that went unreported, according to an analysis released Thursday by the U.S. Secret Service.

The report, by the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, is based on the analysis of 41 incidents of “targeted school violence” in the United States from 2008 to 2017.

These are not sudden, impulsive acts where a student suddenly gets disgruntled,” Lina Alathari, the center’s head, told the Associated Press. “The majority of these incidents are preventable.” 

ABC News reports that the report found that in 80 percent of the shootings, the attackers’ behavior was so alarming that it “elicited concern from bystanders regarding the safety of the attacker or those around them.”

The report will be used to train school and law enforcement officials on how to better identify potential attackers and how to stop them.

Former FBI agent Rick Smith told ABC News: “It doesn’t happen just out of thin air. No one starts to shoot 500 people that’s been stable their entire life. So there has got to be some history and there needs to be some reporting.”

Among the signs that school officials, families, and peers need to be aware of are increased anger, an interest in weapons and violence, depression or isolation, self-harm, or a sudden change in behavior, the report said.

It found that while most U.S. schools have security features like cameras in place and have adopted lockdown procedures, only 17 percent of schools have a system in place where students or families can notify authorities of a student in crisis.

Alathari said the report shows that schools may need to think differently about school discipline and intervention.

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