Since the Columbine School massacre in 1999, there have been an estimated 262 school and college shooting incidents. Just this past October, a gunman opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College and as of this writing, in December 2015, Los Angeles Unified School District and several schools in New Hampshire shut down all schools after receiving “credible threats” of violence.
Tim Goral, senior editor of District Administration magazine, conducted a Q&A with J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist from the University of California-San Diego who believes many attacks and shootings might be thwarted with proper intervention.
Meloy mentioned the need to increase the availability of mental health services for students who need them and outlined three universal warning behaviors that students who may be homicidal exhibit: pathway, fixation and identification. Pathway refers to the long-term research and planning individuals conduct. Fixation is the individual’s obsession with their original grievance and violence. Identification is when the individual alters their behavior or look to emulate that of other previous perpetrators.
With these tell-tale behaviors in mind, the FBI and the Department of Education recommend K12 schools form threat assessment teams. Meloy suggested making these teams multidisciplinary by including a principal or assistant principal, a school resource officer or police officer, faculty who have a good rapport with students, any mental health staff and ideally, someone who is “well-versed in the legalities of threat assessment with an adolescent population.” In addition to threat assessment, these teams need to also manage threats and periodically follow-up with previously identified students. Meloy advised schools to monitor social media as many homicidal teens communicate their intentions to a third-party prior to following through with their plans.
To read the Q&A in its entirety, click here. What are your thoughts about creating a threat assessment team for your school? Share your thoughts on our social media pages – Facebook and @PSWORKS on Twitter!