School Climate & Safety

Girls Seen to Help Avert Violence

May 17, 2005 1 min read

Girls appear to be much more helpful than boys in alerting officials to potential school shootings, concludes a recent analysis.

The analysis was conducted by James P. McGee, the director of forensic-psychology services for Gavin De Becker & Associates, a Studio City, Calif.-based law firm. He is also the co-author of a 1998 report titled “The Classroom Avenger,” which profiled the typical characteristics of school shooters.

The new analysis—titled “Factors Associated with Averted School Shootings”—reviewed 20 potential school shootings that were averted between 1998 and 2005. Mr. McGee found that in 18 of those incidents, girls were the ones who had turned in students planning violence at school. All the potential shooters in those incidents were boys.

“Girls are more into good citizenship,” Mr. McGee said. “I think there’s increased maturity, but the socialization of boys and girls is also very different.”

That socialization appears to make boys feel like snitches if they tell on a friend, but allows girls to more openly seek out adults with their concerns, he said.

The analysis also found that recently averted school shootings were more likely to have multiple co-conspirators, as opposed to prior shooting plots, which tended to involve one student.

“Classroom shootings are evolutionary crimes,” said Mr. McGee, noting that the incidents appear to be getting more complex and are tending to involve more people.

Of the 20 incidents he reviewed, more than half had multiple players, he said.

The original report, which reviewed school shootings nationwide in the 1990s, found that school shooters were likely to be introverted, adolescent boys who live in rural or suburban areas.

Beyond those characteristics, it also found that the teenagers who plotted violent attacks on schools tended to be depressed or suicidal loners or individuals who were part of an alienated social group that had been rejected by the general student body.

“This is a drama that plays out over time,” Mr. McGee said.

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