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.