School Shooting in Troutdale, Oregon Escalates Fear

Today's school shooting in Troutdale Oregon shows how important it is for all schools to address acts of violence in crisis plans, training and drills

Today’s school shooting in Troutdale Oregon shows how important it is for all schools to address acts of violence in crisis plans, training and drills

School Shooting in Troutdale, Oregon Frightens Parents

A breaking news story relating to a school shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon received intensive media coverage once local police described the shooting as an active shooter incident.  The school shooting in Troutdale has caused considerable fear.  As is typical of many of these incidents, details, and confirmed facts are scarce two hours after the event occurred.  Police are now reporting that one victim and the perpetrator are dead.

Confusion resulting from school shootings

Having worked seven school active shooter incidents, my experience has been that some facts are likely to change as the situation unfolds.  Police are still clearing Reynolds High School which is described as the second largest high school in Oregon with 2,800 students.  These types of clearing operations can take considerable time.  Though there have been conflicting reports, the latest statement by local police did not confirm any other victims.  We have seen a number of instances where school shootings were initially described as active shooter events when they were in fact single victim shootings.  The confusion of these types of incidents makes these types of misidentification of incident types more likely.

Fear of school shootings increases with each incident

Regardless of the motivation of individual attackers or the numbers of victims, these types of events are resulting in significant fear among parents, students, and school employees.  This fear has been growing steadily for more than a decade.  The fear generated by today’s school shooting in Troutdale, Oregon will no doubt add to the destructive level of fear.  Today’s school shooting in Troutdale has added to that fear. 

Focus on proven approaches to school safety

One fact that is often missed with each school shooting is how many school shootings are prevented.  We routinely learn of successful interventions where school, police, and mental health officials have been able to successfully avert planned school shootings.  While we must learn what we can from each tragedy, we feel it is extremely important to learn from the far more common success stories.  This approach can also help school officials focus on strategies that have been proven to work while we evaluate potentially beneficial but as of yet untested school security approaches.

The Reynolds High School shooting is a tragedy 

At this point, we cannot determine whether successfully applied strategies minimized the loss of life at Reynolds High School today or if the aggressor only intended to kill the one victim who was reportedly murdered today.  Having visited Troutdale after keynoting a statewide school safety conference in Portland after the Thurston High School shooting, it is a dire shame to see such an act of violence in a wonderful community.  Having visited so many communities where terrible acts of school violence have taken place, it is truly tragic to see the lasting effects of these terrible school shootings.   The school shooting in Troutdale will no doubt result in additional fear among parents, students, and school employees.

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.