The U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education have released details of a new report and training guide that will conclude three years of study on the phenomenon of school shootings.
A follow-up to an interim report that was released almost two years ago, the complete findings unveiled last week offered more detail, but few surprises. (“Gunmen in School Attacks Sought Revenge, Revealed Plans,” Oct. 25, 2000.)
The report examines the behavior and thinking of 41 attackers in 37 incidents that took place over the past three decades. The federal agencies focused on “targeted” school shootings, in which schools were specifically chosen as the location of the attack with an individual, group, or the school itself as the target.
In more than three-fourths of the incidents, other individuals—a friend, schoolmate, sibling, or an adult—knew about the attackers’ plans beforehand. The message to schools: While there is no accurate profile of the “school shooter,” there are common warning signs.
School safety experts say those and other findings in the report repeat what most school administrators have already heard.
“At best, this project reinforces what those on the front lines of school safety have known and said for years,” said Kenneth S. Trump, the president of School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm. “But it also begs us to ask how much paralysis-by-analysis is needed on these issues.”
The Education Department’s chief expert on school safety disagreed, arguing that a threat-assessment guide expected to be released this month as a companion to the report will be the first of its kind. The guide will be used this summer in 12 regional training sessions for school officials.
“There isn’t a threat- assessment guide out there on the streets anywhere,” said William Modzeleski, the director of the department’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and a co- author of the report, which is not yet available to the public.
A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2002 edition of Education Week as U.S. Agencies Release Details From School Violence Research