School Violence Prevention – A Scenario

The laughter of young voices having fun without a care in the world, except Algebra class, carries across the campus. They are all oblivious to the darkening storm clouds forming on the horizon. The class loser is walking towards them with an angry scowl and wearing a long overcoat, but that is nothing unusual for him since the divorce. He’s been in a sour mood since his sophomore year, when his parents got the divorce and his dad moved to the east coast.

He was always a shy kid but he’s become more of a loner since then, unless he’s hanging out with the druggies on campus, giving rise to the idea that he’s using. He’s even started wearing Goth clothes although he doesn’t hang with or even like them or their scene. A recent fascination with all sorts of weapons has startled his mother, but she’s working 3 jobs to keep them afloat.

The few friends he still has don’t know that he’s been sick a lot recently because he’s always skipping school and they don’t hang out much anymore because he rarely takes a bath or uses deodorant. And he gets extremely defensive if you try to talk to him about…anything.

Add to that, he’s been tripping and walking into stuff a lot. And on top of that, his grades are not consistent from day to day, providing he’s actually in class. He’s argumentative with everyone including administration and his mother. He’s been expelled once for bringing a knife and making threats against teachers & students. And his neighbors seem to be losing their pets on a consistent basis.

He walks into the common area and hunkers down in his overcoat, the collar up. His scowling look making him a path through the students. He’s made up his mind to make them recognize him and not ignore him anymore. He wants to be famous and be known everywhere.

A student remarks that he stinks like a dead skunk. He bellows a gut-wrenching primal scream, throws back his coat and unloads a stream of 9mm hollow points into the one who said it. An instant of stunned silence falls before the gates of hell opens and from the depths spews its deathly rage. When it’s all over dozens lay dead and wounded. Now maybe they will pay him some attention and try to understand.

The blood splatter on the wall and removing the carpet is easy. Restoring the sanity of students and parents will not be so easily replaced with happiness and joy again. And what do you tell those parents when they show up at the school or hospital to find out about their kid? Knowing that someone may have to inform them that their child is dead… is not a task I would wish on anyone.

It is fortunate that this is a scenario that most of us will never have to face. But it’s still just as frightening for parents, security professionals, and administrators even if the chances are remote for such a violent incident. We train, read, organize, plan and meet with administrators, encourage good security habits amongst the staff. And still it happens.

In December 2007, Junior Achievement, in conjunction with Deloitte and Touché, released a survey with some startling statistics. The survey , which was intended for the workplace but translates well to schools because of the age groups, stated the 39% of 13 to 18 year Old’s believe that that lying, stealing, and cheating were acceptable ways of getting ahead in life. That’s startling enough, but 23% said that some level of violence against a co-worker is also acceptable for any reason.

Even the most naive parent, teacher, and administrator would have noticed the warning signs I listed in the above scenario. But, over a period of a few years, would we just accept the fact that that student is who he is and leave him alone? I point them all out here and they are easy to see but despite what anyone will tell you the signs are always there.

Does this mean that every kid who acts weird and unique is a candidate for a Columbine style attack? No, of course not. Some kids are just in the process of discovering themselves and need a little latitude. Latitude yes, alone time and being a loner? Maybe, but it has to be monitored with all of the other signs.

The remaining posts in this series will be once a week through the month of August. Watch for them.

Robert D. Sollars assists businesses and their employees to lessen their risk of WPV as well as other security/customer service related issues. You can follow him on twitter@robertsollars2.

                                   I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear

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