Tragically, as the school year ends, we have once again witnessed a year of violent incidents at schools and campuses nationwide.
American flags continually fly at half-staff. Our culture of violence has no end in sight. Alarmingly, tragedies appear more commonly but outrage within society is diminishing. America must wakeup, take action, and stop the carnage.
A Partial List
Recent and notorious incidents of the rampage paint an unsettling picture:
June 10, 2014: A student is shot to death by another student at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore. After the killing, the shooter commits suicide.
May 24, 2014: Six lives are lost on the University of California–Santa Barbara campus before the shooter commits suicide.
April 9, 2014: A mass stabbing by a 16-year-old student of 21 people takes place at Franklin Regional High School in Pennsylvania. Four victims were left in serious condition.
Dec.13, 2013: A student dies eight days after being shot at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo.
Oct. 21, 2013: A 12-year-old student kills a teacher and shoots two other 12-year-olds before killing himself at Sparks Middle School in Nevada.
Dec. 14, 2012: A 20-year-old kills 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and 6 adult teachers and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
April 16, 2007: The deadliest shooting in U.S. history by a single gunman takes place at Virginia Tech with 32 students killed and at least 17 wounded.
Responding to the Crisis
The crisis demands a comprehensive response with many approaches including the following:
- Properly interpreting the Second Amendment
- Threat assessments
- Mental health
- Security vulnerability assessments
- Crisis planning
- Broken families
- Physical, personnel, and procedural security measures
- Educational, private security, and law enforcement partnerships
- Warning signs
Although I appreciate the importance of all of these approaches and have addressed them accordingly in my work, let us take a moment to focus on warning signs. In my presentations throughout the United States since Columbine in 1999, I have found too many individuals in educational, security, and law enforcement positions detached from warning signs.
At numerous venues, I have held up a copy of “Early Warning Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools” before large crowds. Many respond that they are unfamiliar with the classic document. This collaborative publication of the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice was released in 1998, before the Columbine High School tragedy in April 1999. It was developed to “provide the practical help needed to keep every child in your school out of harm’s way.”
This document must be required professional development training for all involved with education and school security. It offers research-based practices designed to identify warning signs early and develop prevention, intervention, and crisis response plans related to:
- Social withdrawal
- Excessive feelings of isolation and being alone
- Being a victim of violence
- Feelings of being picked on and persecuted
- Low school interest and poor academic performance
- Uncontrolled anger
- Patterns of impulsive and chronic hitting, intimidating, and bullying
- Expression of violence in writings
- History of discipline problems
- Past history of violent aggressive behavior
- Drug and alcohol use
- Affiliation with gangs
- Intolerance for differences and prejudicial attitudes
- Inappropriate access to, possession of, and use of firearms
- Serious threats of violence
I have given thousands of copies of it at assemblies, all at no cost thanks to the aforementioned agencies. The teaching within it is critical because as we continually see with reviewing tragedies, warning signs were ignored and the violence was preventable.
Eyes Wide Open
America must wake up and put the lessons learned from school and campus violence tragedies into action. The reawakening of the nation will only take place when we have eyes wide open to comprehensive security issues and respond to warning signs with full-force resolve and action.
Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com