School Violence: You Need More Than a Good Response Plan

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By Rick Amweg

2019 is keeping pace with past years in terms of the number of school shootings occurring nationwide.  While it has been over a year since the devastating events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, TX,  the number of events continues to be staggering.   Also, what continues to be of significance is the commonality occurring in each of these shootings.  According to several sources, including the Wall Street Journal[1] and the Center for Homeland Defense and Security[2] there are several common factors relevant to school shootings, including: 

  • The attack being planned in advance

  • The attacker(s) being bullied at some point in their school career

  • The attacker(s) told someone about the attack in advance of the event

  • The attacker(s) are suicidal

  • Attackers are generally associated with the school

What these common factors tell us is that there is more to preventing school shootings than just having a good response plan.  Using the well-known emergency management cycle of Prevention – Mitigation – Preparedness – Response – Recovery is a good approach.  While it is impossible to prevent every school shooting, many things can enhance a school’s prevention efforts, such as aggressive approaches to bullying prevention, awareness of students’ mental health state, and a “see something – say something” program that promotes information sharing.

 Similarly, preparedness and mitigation are important factors in saving lives.  Having plans and ensuring every student (age-appropriate) is educated and informed on how to react to an active aggressor is the single most important way to save lives during an attack.

 Simply relying on the local authorities to have a response plan is insufficient.  The school must take the lead in working with first responders to prepare an appropriate response plan for each school. 

 And finally, have an appropriate recovery plan is essential.  Remembering that recovery starts at the beginning of an incident, not after it’s over, is important to ensure the safety of students and staff and making sure parents are informed during and after the incident.

 Having all the above is only the beginning, not the end.  One of the biggest mistakes any school official can make is preparing a good school safety plan and then letting it sit on the shelf.  School safety should be an ongoing process of plan review, training and education of students and staff, and exercises that involve school officials and first responders. 

 SRMC has experts that have worked in education for decades and have prepared hundreds of school safety plans, including preparing and administering exercises with local officials.  Let SRMC help you create a safe environment in your school.

[1] The Wall Street Journal. Three Decades of School Shootings: An Analysis.  Tawnell D. Hobbs, 04/19/2019

[2] https://www.chds.us/ssdb/dataset/

Ryan Magada