As the summer approaches, many parents are filled with dread. Summer for a mother of five is 12 weeks of incessant phone calls to my office, keeping a 15-year-old girl out of trouble from my cubicle, and carting kids from swim lessons to T-ball to the movies and everything in between. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. But I, as well as many other parents, have uncovered another reason to dread the school year's close — the active shooter. Teens or young adults with an axe to grind seem more likely to wage war on classmates as the summer sun begins to warm the Earth.
In recent weeks, police arrested a 16-year-old boy plotting to carry out simultaneous "Columbine-like mass murders" in two states on September 11, 2008. Investigating authorities found more than 100 knives and several illegal snakes at his Indiana home. In South Carolina, officers arrested 18-year-old Ryan Schallenberger after he allegedly planned what he referred to as a "Columbine follow-up." Police say the teen's journal entries showed how he planned out in detail — down to the costs of the bomb supplies — multiple explosions at his high school.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police publishes a "Guide for Preventing and Responding to School Violence." Section 3 of this volume takes an in-depth look at threat assessment, or more importantly, the need to thoroughly investigate any tips about potential school violence. This document advocates forming a threat assessment team to call in as needed to assess the credibility of, and needed response for, serious threats. Does your agency have such a team? If so, who's on it and how does it operate? Has this team circumvented any violent plots?
LET investigates Campus Patrol in June and would like to know how you're navigating the potential for school violence. Hearing your crisis plans might help all of us — parents, faculty, students and law enforcement — plan for the unthinkable in our own communities.