Current methods used to prevent school shooting are failing us!

The shooting yesterday at Lone Star College is the fourth school shooting in the past five weeks, since the massacre at Sand Hook Elementary and three were in higher education.  Could these shooting have been prevented?

Beyond the horrific Sand Hook Tragedy, this year begins with one shooting at Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis and another by a 16 year old high school student Taft High School in California.  Sadly, the vast majority of professionals are focusing on guns and mental illness, neither of which would have prevented the Sandy Hook shooting, nor will they provide a reliable means of preventing the next shooting.  Why?

Following the horrific Virginia Tech shooting the “Report to the President on Issues Raised by the Virginia Tech Tragedy, June 13, 2007 clearly stated, “Most people who are violent do not have a mental illness, and most people who have mental illness are not violent.”  In fact Seung-Hui Cho , the Virginia Tech Shooter was evaluated on three separate occasions and on each occasion he was deemed to be, “Depressed and anxious but not at risk of hurting himself or others”!  Further, Jared Lee Loughner, who pleaded guilty to 19 charges, of murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, clearly had a Thought Disorder and may be Schizophrenic, but less than 1% of those with Schizophrenia have ever murdered others.  How do you get from 1% probability to predicting the next shooter?

Mental Illness is like “Profiling;” illustrated by the seminal study conducted with the U.S. Secret Service & U.S. Dept. of Education, called the Safe School Initiative, which concluded, “There is no accurate or useful profile of the school shooter, nor for assessing the risk that a particular student may pose for school-based targeted violence.”   Those in this study discovered what we already knew; “Profiling” tells us that within a certain group of individuals, there is a higher probability of a shooter.  It does not tell us who the next shooter is!

Another “go to” practice to predict the next shooter is Threat Assessment but does this method provide a reliable predictive model.  By its definition, Threat Assessment is an assessment of a threat that already exists! It is the objective of members of a Threat Assessment team to identify “lesser threats” and thereby prevent “greater threats,” but they are still reacting, not preventing, the initial threat.  There is not guarantee that this “lesser threat” will not be a threat to life or limb!

This is compounded by the fact that from the Moment of Commitment (when an aggressor pulls their weapon and begins firing) to the Moment of Completion (when the last round is discharged) is typically a mere 2 seconds (President Reagan shooting took only 1.7 seconds). If you are “reacting/responding” to a shooter, you will do so over those slain during those horrific first 2 seconds! This is not effective, responsible and, I would submit, not defensible.

However, the Safe School Initiative study continues with a SOLUTION, “An inquiry should focus instead on the student’s behaviors and communication to determine if the student appears to be planning or preparing for an attack.” “The ultimate question to answer …. is whether a student is on a path to a violent attack, and if so, to determine how fast they are moving and where intervention may be possible”   The most reliable means of identifying the next shooter is through observing and defusing “emerging aggression.” A better understanding of mental illness and threat assessment are important but if we are to identify the next shooter we must focus on “emerging aggression,” usable objective observables, culturally neutral body language, behavior and communication indicators.

Critical Aggression Prevention System (CAPS) is built upon the observations and management of “emerging aggression,” along with the Meter of Emerging Aggression (software service) that enables its users to identify the precursors to violence and prevent them. For a quick review of how and why CAPS works, please review our 3-minute CAPS Informational Movie:

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