A man armed with multiple knifes walked into the admissions office of the Miami-Jacobs Career College in Columbus, Ohio and stabbed a person. At that point, bystanders attempted to subdue and disarm the man who then responded by producing an additional edged weapon. By the time responding police shot the man, four people had been injured, three of them critically.
Stabbings on K-12 and higher education campuses occur much more frequently than attacks with firearms but most do not involve multiple victims. We have found this to be true not only in our work in the United States but in our work in other countries as well. At the same time, there have thus far been at least two knife attacks in schools in the People’s Republic of China where at least 25 people have been stabbed. School stabbing rampages have also occurred in other countries such as Japan.
While edged weapons incidents are far more prevalent on school campuses than other types of weapons incidents, we have found that very few educational employees have received any instruction or training on what to do about them. Even fewer have ever participated in drills and exercises to practice the action steps that need to be implemented to counter people who are threatening to use a knife or have actually used an edged weapon to attack others. One reason for this is the over emphasis on catastrophic but extremely rare active shooter situations at schools. While it is critical that employees and students be provided information and practice on these deadly situations, this should not be to the exclusion of other dangerous and more common types of school weapons incidents.
For example, our analysts have conducted one-on-one structured simulation interviews using both scripted and video school crisis scenarios with more than 500 school employees in the past several years. We have found that on average, only 1 out of every 100 interviewed participants can properly respond to a scenario of an angry parent who is brandishing a knife. While most school staff can verbalize the correct procedures for a person who is firing a gun, they typically cannot handle a person with a knife. As yesterday’s savage attack demonstrates, a person who has an edged weapon and a desire to use the weapon on a school campus can create devastating damage in a matter of seconds.
As with medical emergencies, tornadoes, fires and any other category of school crisis events, school crisis plans, training and drills should prepare employees to adapt to any situation that occurs, not just those types of events that garner intensive media coverage. A comprehensive approach to school safety and crisis planning can reduce danger to school employees, visitors and students.