People who have seen me keynote conferences over the past five to six years are familiar that I often run through a series of mass casualty school attacks involving edged weapons. I have blogged on this topic several times in recent years because we have noted a pattern for these types of attacks. My officers worked two multiple victim edged weapons assaults committed by students during my ten-year tenure as a school district police chief in Bibb County, Georgia. Having been attacked with edged weapons on a number of occasions and having been cut once with a box cutter, I have had a deep respect for what someone can do with a blade.
One of our concerns about the intensive focus on active shooter incidents in schools in recent years has been that this often results in school and public safety officials failing to prepare for events like the attack that took place in a Pennsylvania high school. The majority of school crisis plans in this country have no relevant protocol for this type of attack or even the far more typical edged weapons assaults.
This week’s tragic attack should be a stark warning to us all that focusing intently on active shooter incidents is not a balanced approach. We have noted other attack patterns such as those involving fire as a weapon in school attacks that are still frequently overlooked in many school security approaches. While it is not possible nor even perhaps logical to attempt to address every possible attack methodology, we should learn from past incidents over a long time span and with a global perspective. As this week’s incident shows, international patterns can become a local issue very rapidly and with significant outcomes. This week’s attack follows hundreds of serious injuries and deaths in K12 schools from incidents involving mass casualty edged weapons attacks in other countries. We felt this was such a significant pattern that we discuss it in the introduction for our new book Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters.
When we started writing more than a year ago, we decided to include several references to mass casualty attacks involving edged weapons and fire. We continue to urge educators and their public safety partners to be sure they are using the all-hazards approach to school crisis planning.