Friday, February 8, 2013

Preventing School Mass Shooters & Katherine S. Newman

While it is understood there is no psychological profile for a school shooter, there are behavioral indicators. Katherine S. Newman (scholar and author of the book Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings) came up with Five Criteria to help identify a potential school shooter in her book. This work has exhaustive research and data which I am shocked has not been incorporated into the state and federal discussions on school safety in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. 

The Five Criteria are
1. Marginality: individual feels socially ostracized (real or perceived) and feels marginal (loner, bullied, harassed).
2. Individual Vulnerabilities: mental illness, family problems, depressed, suicidal, or a combination.
3. Cultural Scripts: change roles, manly exit, notoriety better than being ignored, send a message, fame, advertise threats but then committed to follow through or face more negative attention, escalating commitment, designs (plans) the rampage script.
4. Under The Radar: unrecognized change in academic or disciplinary history, downward changes in behavior, violent writings in school or social media, criminal history, threats, lack of parental awareness.
5. Access To Weapons: at home or relatives, purchase or borrow weapons, steal weapons, and some weapon experience.

In 2008, she was a keynote speaker at a Campus Safety Conference and her talk was filmed. This video is 52 minutes long where she touches the five criteria and upon three main questions:

1. What motivates these school rampage shooters?
2. Why didn't the school identify the behaviors of the shooter beforehand?
3. Why didn't the community identify the behaviors of the shooter beforehand? 

This video is worth your time if you are an educator, law enforcement, or involved in school preparedness (safety & security). Especially interesting is how she talks about the societal aspects of school and community cultures that negate (by not reporting concerns) the prevention of many of these school shootings. 

This reinforces my strong belief that promoting a "See Something, Hear Something, Read Something, Report Something" in our schools and communities is critical to prevention of school shootings.  

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