A beautiful autumn day. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the laughter of young voices carries across the grass. They are all oblivious to the coming storm that is about to envelope them.
The class loser is walking towards them with an angry scowl. He’s wearing a long overcoat, but that is nothing unusual. He’s been in a sour mood since his sophomore year, when his parents got divorced and his dad moved to the east coast. His class attendance has slipped and he’s even been expelled once for bringing a knife to class and making threats.
Since then, he’s become a loner, and even started wearing Goth clothes although he doesn’t hang with or even like them. A recent fascination with all sorts of weapons has startled his mother, but she’s working 3 jobs to keep them fed and housed. And the neighbors seem to be losing their pets lately.
A few of his friends know that he’s been sick a lot to. But they don’t hang out much anymore because he rarely takes a bath or uses deodorant. And he gets defensive if you try to talk to him. He’s also been seen with the ‘druggies’ as of late.
And he’s been tripping and walking into stuff a lot. And on top of that, his grades are not consistent from week to week or even day to day.
He walks into the command and hunkers down, his scowling look making him a path. He walks into a group of students waiting for the bell to start class. Someone remarks that he stinks. He bellows a gut-wrenching yell, throws back his coat and unloads a stream of 9mm hollow points into the one who said it.
An instant of stunned silence falls before the depths of hell pounces its rage out on another high school. When it’s all over dozens lay dead and wounded, including the shooter.
The blood splatter on the wall and removing the carpet is easy. Restoring the sanity of students and parents will not be. And what do you tell those parents when they show up at the school or hospital?
Fortunately, this is a scenario that most of us as security professionals will never have to face. But it’s just as frightening even if the chances are remote.
As security professionals, we plan for such events on a daily basis. We train, read, organize, and attend seminars. We plan and meet with administrators. We try to encourage good security habits amongst the staff. Simply put, to do our jobs. And still it happens. In December 2007 Junior Achievement, in conjunction with Deloitte and Touché, released a survey with some startling statistics. The survey , which was intended for the workplace but translates well to our schools, stated the 39% of 13 to 18 year Old’s believe that that lying, stealing, and cheating were acceptable ways of getting ahead in life.
That’s startling enough, but 23% said that some level of violence against a co-worker is acceptable. If it is acceptable against a co-worker, what does that make it against another student?
Most of us would have seen the warning signs in the scenario I started with. But, over a period of a few years, would we just accept the fact that that student is who he is and leave him alone? I point them all out here and they are easy to see. The warning signs are always there no matter what anyone states or believes.
Does this mean that every kid that discovers an interest in Goth attire and make-up is a candidate for a Columbine style attack? No. Some kids are just in the process of discovering themselves and need a little latitude. Latitude yes, alone time and being a loner. NO!
Robert D. Sollars is a31 year veteran of the security field. He has been studying, researching, writing, & speaking about workplace/school violence for 23 years. He has a book on each topic. To read the remaining posts in this series, to be finished on Wednesday the 27th, please go to the blog site www.todays-training.com, or follow me on tweeter @robertsollars2 to get the blog posts as they come out.