The 1st post in this series focused on a potential mass shooting inside a school. The last one was about the attitudes people have, both parents and administrators that prevent potential problems and create them. Now we will explore the actual warning signs in order… all 22 of them that I’ve collected, starting with Mid-Buchanan Middle School in Faucett, MO. In 1988 (Nathan Faris). Keep in mind that you may come up with better descriptions and more signs. I don’t pretend to have all the answers or that this is the definitive all-inclusive list.
Some of these have an explanation and other should be self-explanatory. But I will warn you with these. Just because someone you know will have one or two of these doesn’t mean much. But when they start exhibiting 5, 6, 10, or more of these…
Bullying – both being the bully and being bullied. There are enough incidents where the one being bullied turned the tables on their tormenters
Continual Excuses – Are they constantly and consistently pushing the blame for something off on someone else, more so than other teens?
Cruelty to Animals – this doesn’t have to be an incident of killing & gutting. Cruelty has many facets to it, think about starving, teasing, kicking, and burning
Drug and Alcohol Abuse – don’t forget prescriptions and inhalants. And by prescriptions I mean check your medicine cabinet to ensure they are all there
Fascination with Weapons – Live in a Household that holds hunting a fundamental right? That’s fine, it goes beyond that. As if a switch was flipped and they want to have bladed weapons, firearms, bomb making materials, & such.
Free Expression – If they are creative and like to write short stories then this will be hard to spot and know if they really feel that way or not. A lot of teenagers like to write, or compose, dark brooding stories or songs. If they do…it’s okay as long as other signs aren’t there.
Impact on teachers/counselors/administration/parent time – It builds gradually over time and takes up a considerable amount in the long run. From 5 minutes to an hour a few months later. And there is sometimes where it can start taking longer because of disciplinary issues.
Inconsistent Work Habits/Decreased Productivity – This doesn’t just mean not taking out the trash on time. All of their work suffers, from homework, part-time jobs, working at home chores, it all adds up
Mental Illness – one of the hardest to spot because of the innumerable signs of it as well
New Religious/Political Fervor – Can we say ISIS or other religious entities that encourage killing others to satisfy their God? Then of course there is rancor over the past Presidential election as well
Obsession with Military/Police Tactics
Poor Health and Hygiene – This goes far beyond the Nirvana grunge or pigpen of Peanuts fame™
Poor Relationship Skills – From parents, other students, teachers, and so on
Safety Concerns – tripping and running into things. Again, not so unusual for an awkward teenager, but this goes beyond that
Serious Stress – You may not know what’s stressing them out personally. Divorce, addiction, medical issues, college entrance exams are potential issues. And it doesn’t have to be about them. Friends, family, or others they care about.
Threats both open and veiled – With these you absolutely can’t forget with social media threats. It’s increasingly becoming a platform to say things that kids don’t believe have any consequences.
Unshakable Depression – keep in mind that depression can easily be concealed by a smile and attitude.
Unusual or Changed Behavior – not so unusual for a teenager with raging hormones and growing up stress but…
Violent Music, Movies and Video games – Teens are unlikely to watch the normal things we watched as kids ourselves, Andy Griffith, The Brady Bunch, Benson, Starsky & Hutch, Star trek, and etc. And our music…
I feel the need to reiterate here that one or two of these signs are probably a teenager being a teenager. However, when these signs begin to add up and you have 4, 7, 9, 10, or more then you should begin to worry. Especially if they occur over a short period of time.
Now the question becomes how do you know how to recognize these students, how do you prevent another Columbine from occurring at your school? The answer is simple and yet very complex and at the same time difficult to ascertain.
The easy answer is to encourage people to ‘see/notice something say something’. It is becoming so cliché at this point, but it is your most effective weapon in preventing an incident.
Yes I know the unwritten code of teenagers, no snitching. But sometimes you have to do everything short of bullying them to get a teenager to fess up. And secondly…listen to what they tell you about school, friends, ‘the losers’, and so on. By listening to them and looking at their social media sites (and don’t call it snooping or call their privacy rights into question – they don’t exist at this point), then you may just get a handle on it and spot these signs before they can open the gates of hell to splatter blood in a deadly rage.
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