Focus on School Shootings Prevention Success Stories

Bibb County, Georgia Campus Police Officer John Wilson recently received the Peace Officers Association of Georgia's (PAOG) Officer of the Year for Valor Award.  Wilson was honored for his role in the prevention of a mass casualty school shooting.  Officer Wilson interrupted an imminent school shooting at his high school in Macon, Georgia last year.  Officer Wilson intercepted a former student who was armed with a handgun and more than 170 rounds of ammunition.  The aggressor came to the school and was preparing to open fire on a group of students.  Officer Wilson drew his service pistol and was able to persuade the youth to drop his weapon after a tense standoff.  Bibb County Public School Police Officers have successfully averted more than a dozen planned weapons assaults over the past 25 years.   These prevented incidents represent just a handful of the many success stories from across the nation each year.  It has been our experience that more planned school attacks are successfully averted than are carried out.  Studying these successful interventions should be at least as much of a priority of our analysis of the attacks that are carried out.

Bibb County, Georgia Campus Police Officer John Wilson recently received the Peace Officers Association of Georgia’s (PAOG) Officer of the Year for Valor Award. Wilson was honored for his role in the prevention of a mass casualty school shooting. Officer Wilson interrupted an imminent school shooting at his high school in Macon, Georgia last year. Officer Wilson intercepted a former student who was armed with a handgun and more than 170 rounds of ammunition. The aggressor came to the school and was preparing to open fire on a group of students. Officer Wilson drew his service pistol and was able to persuade the youth to drop his weapon after a tense standoff. Bibb County Public School Police Officers have successfully averted more than a dozen planned weapons assaults over the past 25 years. These prevented incidents represent just a handful of the many success stories from across the nation each year. It has been our experience that more planned school attacks are successfully averted than are carried out. Studying these successful interventions should be at least as much of a priority of our analysis of the attacks that are carried out.

More School Shootings are Prevented than Take Place

While the media and many experts focus intently on school shootings that take place, relatively little time, energy, study, and discussion is devoted to the far more numerous success stories where school shootings are prevented.   For example, from 1989 to 1999, the Bibb County Public School System in Macon, Georgia successfully averted six planned school shootings. Most of these events involved gang members. These cases were otherwise imminent events and resulted in convictions in superior or federal court. During the same time period, the district also averted one planned school bombing, a planned double suicide, and five attempts by adults to come to elementary schools with loaded handguns to either take a child by force or to shoot a child or staff member.

Lack of School Shootings was not by Chance

These tragedies were not prevented by luck. Officer Kenneth Bronson stopped an imminent shooting of a school bus at McEvoy Middle School because of the exceptionally high degree of staffing, training, equipment, and empowerment of the Bibb County School System Police Department. Though the school district is located in a community with very high rates of gang activity, homicide and aggravated assault, it is the only school district of its size in the state of Georgia that has never had a student shot on school property.

An Externally Evaluated Model for the Prevention of School Shootings

The Bibb County Model was highlighted by the United States Department of Education and was the only promising program for the prevention of school shootings that survived evaluation by the Hamilton Fish Institute as part of United States Attorney General Janet Reno’s Gun Violence   Reduction Task Force. Many of the individual strategies first fielded in Bibb County are now commonly practiced around the nation, many public and non-public school organizations still do not utilize them.   For example, many schools and districts still do not utilize the multi-disciplinary threat assessment process developed in Bibb County in the early 1990’s. This proven approach is relatively easy to implement and apply but is but one of the success stories from around the nation that should be more widely adopted more than two decades after it was used to stop not just one, but several planned school shootings. Perhaps if we spent as much time discussing concepts that have proven to be effective as we do tragic acts of violence, we would have fewer of these troubling incidents.

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.
Michael Dorn

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About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.