School Kidnapping Case Ends in Sentence

School Kidnapping

The boy who kidnapped a girl from Varina High School at gunpoint was sentenced to five years in prison.  The boy kidnapped the girl from the high school parking lot by showing her the gun.  He held her captive in a home for hours until she managed to escape.  He plead no contest to charges of brandishing a firearm near a school.  He was sentenced to five years, but the judge suspended four years and seven months of the sentence.

school kidnapping victim

School Kidnapping Analysis

Kidnappings from school are rare, but as a recent case in Philadelphia showed, can be a high-impact event.  The most recent case has the added dimension of occurring in the school parking lot.  This adds an additional factor making it more difficult for which to prepare.  There are some factors that schools can take a look at to improve their children’s security in and out of school buildings.

School Kidnapping Prevention – Access Control

The easiest way for schools to protect children is to limit access to their school to those people with legitimate purposes.   This is done by developing protocols and procedures that screen those who enter, checking them against a database of authorized people.  Of course, these are only as good as the people who implement them, so training and accountability are a must.  High schools with parking lots can be monitored for out-of-the-ordinary behaviors, providing the school, and law enforcement, with early warning and information that may help with the investigation.

School Kidnapping Prevention – Climate Control

Schools that have a climate in which teachers, students and parents have developed trusting relationships make it easier to see when trouble is developing.  It is possible that a girl who is having trouble with a young man will tell a trusted adult.  Even if the kidnapping occurs, there may be information the trusted adult can give law enforcement that can get them to where they need to be.

School kidnappings need not occur.  By developing good school climates and tighter access controls, schools can lower the probability that a kidnapping will occur at their school.

An A+ in School Safety

A plus school safety

These photos depict an excellent utilization of murals to enhance student safety in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina Public School System.  This clear marking makes it less likely that an aggressor could claim they accidentally entered the girl’s restroom by mistake.  They also reduce the chances of students suffering embarrassment from the common problem of people entering the wrong restroom by mistake.

These photos depict an excellent utilization of murals to enhance student safety in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina Public School System. This clear marking makes it less likely that an aggressor could claim they accidentally entered the girl’s restroom by mistake. They also reduce the chances of students suffering embarrassment from the common problem of people entering the wrong restroom by mistake.

A+ Example of Murals to Enhance School Safety

Murals Enhance School Safety in Chapel Hill

While reviewing a school security report prepared by one of our analysts, we noted an unusually creative use of murals to mark student restrooms.  The photos were taken at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  We would like to share this excellent example of an A+ in school safety effort.  All of us have probably walked into a restroom designed for the opposite sex by mistake.  There are also instances in schools where a male student enters a girl’s restroom intentionally but claims they did so by mistake.

A+ in School Safety Solution at Phillips Middle School

Staff at Phillips Middle School came up with an excellent solution to this that is superior to anything I have seen in my visits to thousands of K12 schools over the years.  While I have seen other examples of clearly marked student restrooms, none of the approaches I have seen have been as clear as this example.  By combining murals depicting students with signage on two walls, the staff at Phillips have dramatically enhanced communication and significantly reduced the opportunity for a student to enter a restroom designed for students of the opposite sex intentionally or accidental accidentally.

A+ in School Safety effort and effect

Working routinely with architects and school planners over the years, I have encountered hundreds of really great ideas to improve school safety through murals, signage and other visible features.   Fortunately, I still learn new and better ways to use visual indicators to improve school safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness each year.  We are always looking to our clients for A+ school safety ideas.

We are impressed with the innovative and effective approach used by the staff at Phillips High School.  They remind us just how powerful a relatively simple and inexpensive approach to improve school safety and climate can be.  For this, we give the team at Phillips an A+ for innovation.

      

School Shooting Threat gets Student 10 Days

School Shooting Threat

A 15-year old student of Skyview High School in Vancouver, Washington, was arrested for making a school shooting threat in March. During a two-week period, the student identified those he planned to shoot.  He also looked up “how to commit mass murder” on the Internet. He even gave a date for when the shooting would occur — the first day of school in September.  The police did not find any evidence that the student had a firearm, or that he had access to one.

School Shooting Threat Analysis

The student’s attorney contends that the young man was “just joking”.  However, schools cannot treat any threat as a joke.  They, along with law enforcement, must thoroughly investigate such threats when they are made.

For schools, this means having a multidisciplinary threat assessment team.  This team should be comprised of professionals who have skills and training in such assessments.  They should also know the person being assessed.  Teachers, counselors, school administrators, law enforcement, mental health professionals, pastors, should all be considered for membership on the team.  The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center has free resources to guide schools in this process.

According to the US Department of Education and the US Secret Service, a multidisciplinary threat assessment team operates under six principles:

1) Targeted violence is the end result of an understandable, and oftentimes discernible, process of thinking and behavior.
2) Targeted violence stems from an interaction among the person, the situation, the setting, and the target.
3) An investigative, skeptical, inquisitive mindset is critical to successful threat assessment.
4) Effective threat assessment is based on facts rather than characteristics or “traits.”
5) An “integrated systems approach” should guide threat assessment investigations.
6) The central question of a threat assessment is whether a student poses a threat, not whether the student made a threat.

All elements of the team must work together to paint a true picture of the subject. The goal is to help the subject, while at the same time protecting your people.  The time to plan is now, before you receive a school shooting threat, or any threat to the safety of your people.