School shootings within the United States are an ongoing and national issue without current resolution. The authors seek to address prevention through the possibility of an interprofessional approach that includes school district administrators and parents, students, and community members.29 May 2022
Preventing School Shootings
September 1, 2022
School shootings within the United States are an ongoing and national issue without current resolution. The authors seek to address prevention through the possibility of an interprofessional approach that includes school district administrators and parents, students, and community members.
The battle to prevent school shootings
The authors found that all the reports and studies they reviewed were “consistent across time in terms of identifying the threat and general conditions of the events”, but the “primary unknown factor is the actual detection of the threat in the form of the shooter and the shooter’s intentions.” They also highlight the importance of actions and strategies that help detect, disrupt, or prevent school shootings versus just deterring them. For example, schools that take steps to ensure that weapons do not enter campus are still open to vulnerabilities. Furthermore, while the presence of resource officers who conduct active shooter training may deter an attack, it may not help to detect, disrupt, or prevent one.
They expressed risk through the formula R = T V C (where R = risk, T = threat, V = vulnerability, and C = consequences) and concluded that based on the literature review, the threat analysis part of the equation has been largely ignored.
School shooters defined as ‘terrorists’
This paper presents findings and conclusions after a literature review (including reports from government agencies) and an analysis of the current status of the issues in the United States. The operating model suggested by the authors starts with the primary assumption that current, future, and potential school shooters are domestic terrorists. Elevating school shooters to this status would allow federal law enforcement jurisdiction for “investigative and prosecution purposes and provide a nationwide standard of investigation.”
Secondly, the authors suggest that the Presidential Policy Directive 21 and Executive Order 13636 of February 13, 2013 be adjusted to add schools as a new critical infrastructure sector. This would allow for a new “office” to be created that would specifically deal with schools and their security issues for the Department of Education.
Thirdly, fusion centers could play a part in preventing attacks. Fusion centers “are state and local areas for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information among SLTT [state, local, tribal, and territorial] partners such as frontline law enforcement, public safety, fire service, emergency response, public health, critical infrastructure protection, and private sector security personnel.” Facilitating information sharing in this way can help enforcement officials prevent, protect against, and respond to crime and terrorism, especially given that in all reviewed cases in the literature review the authors found that the “shooter or shooters had communicated the intention of committing these acts, which has been increasingly done via social media among other forms of communication.”
Lastly, any prevention model must “involve school administrators, school faculty, school district administrators, students, and parents as part of the total community.”
Overall, it is “important to recognize that it takes an interprofessional collaboration among educators, law enforcement, and public health practitioners in order to prevent school shootings.”
‘Not our school’ Syndrome
“The “not our school” syndrome has been identified as a contributing factor to a school shooting occurring by not being detected in time to deter, disrupt, or prevent.” In order to truly prevent school shootings, significant social change must occur and actions need to be implemented at every level. “Every recommendation must clearly and fully involve students and their parents, faculty, school administrators at school and district levels, law enforcement, and health care professionals at the local, state, and federal levels.” In addition, “see something, say something” must also apply more broadly and include student’s social settings and social media.
“Students and parents are the most critical part of the detection and therefore prevention in any discussion involving school safety.”
To detect, deter, disrupt, or prevent school shootings, change must occur at every level. This sounds like a monumental task but it also means that we all have our parts to play when ensuring the safety of our school communities. Not only can we help to identify risks in these settings we can help ensure that our students get the support they need. While policy and security fixes may never be perfect, as someone who is interacting with students daily I can see the direct impact we can have on the lives of our youth. Educators can help to build a strong, supportive, and cohesive school environment that allows students to feel safe to talk to each other and to staff. They can also help to build those necessary relationships among and between colleagues, students, parents/guardians, and community members.
Alonge, H. C., & Craig, C. P. (2020). Preventing school shootings: The interprofessional and community approach to prevention. Journal of Social Change, 12, 32–39. https://doi.org/10.5590/JOSC.2020.12.1.04