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School Violence/Crisis: Lessons From The Front Lines Scott Poland, Ed.D. Nova Southeastern University National Emergency Assistance Team [email protected] Parents Of U.S. School Violence Victims Call For. More religion Reduce gun access to children Better parenting and supervision

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School Violence/Crisis: Lessons From The Front LinesScott Poland, Ed.D.Nova Southeastern UniversityNational Emergency Assistance [email protected]
parents of u s school violence victims call for
Parents Of U.S. School Violence Victims Call For
  • More religion
  • Reduce gun access to children
  • Better parenting and supervision
  • Improved mental health services
  • Reduced violence in media
my most recent congressional testimony
My Most Recent Congressional Testimony
  • Strengthening School Safety and Prevention of Bullying
  • House Education and Labor Joint Subcommittee on July 8, 2009
  • Witnesses
  • Politics/Issues
  • Focus of my testimony
nasp and aera congressional testimony 4 20 10
NASP and AERA Congressional Testimony 4/20/10
  • Serious school violence in U.S has declined
  • Low level aggression and bullying remain high
  • Difficult to get good data on the problem
  • Not a single problem with simple solution
  • Need to focus on order and engagement in schools and emotional well being
facts probability of death every year for u s youth age 5 to 19
FACTS: Probability of death every year for U.S youth age 5 to 19
  • Any cause: 1 in 3000
  • Traffic accident: 1 in 8,000
  • Homicide away from school: 1 in 21,000
  • Suicide away from school: 1 in 28,000
  • Homicide at school: 1 in 1,700,000
  • Source Scientific American
more data school violent deaths source www schoolsecurity org
More Data: School Violent DeathsSource
  • 05-06 school year 27 deaths
  • 06-07 school year 32 deaths
  • 07-08 school year 16 deaths
  • 08-09 school year 12 deaths
non criminal incidents
Non Criminal Incidents
  • Bill Modzeleski the Director of Safe Schools for U.S. Department of Education cited 11 million incidents annually in schools of bullying or harassment
violence key points
Violence Key Points
  • Increase in violent incidents intended to kill 2 or more people
  • Warning signs in violent fantasies and distorted sense of what is just
  • Signs of trouble include aggression, interest in obtaining guns, collecting posters of school shooters and being a social loner
columbine five years later
Columbine Five Years Later

Principal says we will never be the same

School closes on 4/20 every year

Enrollment declined and 80 % staff turnover

Remodeling and cosmetic changes

Litany of more losses

Status of law suits

PTA problems

changes in schools post columbine
Changes in Schools Post Columbine

Improved crisis planning

Better communication between police and schools

Improved assessment of threats

US Secret Service Study of school violence

More police in schools

columbine by dave cullen 2009 hatchette book group
Columbine by Dave Cullen 2009 Hatchette Book Group
  • Based on 10 years of research and countless interviews
  • Dispels many myths: not trench coat mafia and result of anger at jocks and popular students
  • Media got it wrong, misinformation and mythology
  • She did not say yes to belief in God
cullen continued
Cullen Continued
  • Eric Harris was a psychopath, “You know what I hate? Mankind!!! Kill Everything”
  • Dylan Klebold was depressed, suicidal and easily led
  • Killings were random and target was entire school
  • Columbine best viewed as a failed bombing
  • Extensive law enforcement cover up
why kids kill by peter langman palgrave macmillan 2009
Why Kids Kill by Peter LangmanPalgrave Macmillan (2009)
  • Based on his study of 10 school shooters that killed 74 and wounded 92
  • Rampage acts best understood as a result of their personalities and life history
  • Hypothesized there are three types of shooters
types of shooters
Types of Shooters
  • Psychopathic—narcissistic without a conscience—aspiring to be godlike—paranoid, sadistic with antisocial personality traits
  • Psychotic—avoidant, schizotypal and dependent personality traits—paranoid delusions, auditory hallucinations—depressed and full of rage
third type
Third Type
  • Traumatized Shooters—suffered emotional and physical abuse at home—were sexually abused—lived with ongoing stress and losses—parents had substance abuse problems--frequent moves—lost parent to separation, jail and death—trauma history resulted in suicidal thoughts
langman suggestions to prevent school shootings
Langman Suggestions to Prevent School Shootings
  • Limit adolescent privacy
  • Don’t lie to protect your child
  • Follow through with due process
  • Pay attention to what the schools says
  • Eliminate easy access to guns
  • Take threats seriously
more suggestions
More Suggestions
  • Anyone can stop a school shooting
  • Recognize rehearsal and planning of attacks
  • Punishment is not prevention
  • Physical security alone is not the answer
  • Utilize threat assessment teams
  • Good communication and positive culture important at school
secret service study of school violence
Secret Service Study of School Violence
  • Revenge was motive
  • Events were planned
  • Few school shootings were resolved by police
  • Perpetrators talked about their plans
  • 2/3 perpetrators were victims of bullying
  • 2/3 perpetrators were suicidal
  • There is no profile
safe school initiative
Safe School Initiative
  • Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools
  • U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center
  • Departments of Education and Justice
red lake mn school shooting
Red Lake , MNSchool Shooting
  • 2 dead in the community
  • 8 dead at Red Lake High School
family trauma history of j perpetrator
Family/Trauma History of J. (perpetrator)
  • Parents separated when young
  • Lived with mom and her boyfriend
  • Severely disciplined (locked in closet)
  • Father died by suicide when J. was 8 (standoff with tribal police)
  • Mother in car accident suffered brain injury and in nursing home
  • Moved frequently
recent history
Recent History
  • Bullied and harassed at school
  • Black-garbed loner
  • Described as “floating alone”
  • Introvert at school
  • Outspoken on internet
  • Posted often on neo-Nazi web-site
  • Created violent animated story on internet about school shootings and suicide
history cont
History, cont.
  • Posted entries against racial mixing
  • 2003-2004 told other Red Lake students he was going to shoot up school and was questioned and released by police
  • 2004-2005
    • stopped attending school twice due to depression and harassment
    • Expelled for unspecified reasons
    • Suicide attempt summer-2004
    • Under psychiatrist’s care
    • Prozac doubled 2/05
    • Viewed film “Elephant” frequently in days before shooting
"Most people have never had the kind

of pain that makes you physically sick,

so depressed you can't function and so

sad that eating a bullet seems welcoming."

Internet Entry- 2005

red lake aftermath
Red Lake Aftermath
  • Superintendent leave due to emotional reasons
  • Principal suffers heart attack
  • Two students died by suicide in next months
  • Additional suicides on reservation
  • Three classmates believed directly involved in shooting—36 may have had awareness—1 still in jail
  • Hardware measures only being questioned as high school had cameras, metal detectors, and security
  • School officials were not aware of his internet life
the emergency management cycle
The Emergency Management Cycle

Plan for a rapid, coordinated,effective response

Decrease the need

for response

Restore the learning

environment; Monitor

and assist the healing

Execute the plan

factors in trauma
Factors in Trauma
  • Physical proximity
  • Social proximity
  • Individual trauma history
  • 60----20----20---- Rule
  • Traumatized adolescents at risk for depression, substance abuse and reckless behavior
  • Most assistance is short term
dimensions of vulnerability
Dimensions of Vulnerability
  • Geographical Proximity
  • Population at risk
  • Psychosocial Proximity
psychosocial proximity
Psychosocial Proximity

Identification with or similarity

to victims


Near family or close friend

Immediate family

population at risk
Population at Risk


Difficult personal or social crisis

Significant loss in the past year

Recent or similar trauma

geographical proximity
Geographical Proximity

Outside the disaster area

Within hearing distance

Near the disaster area

Direct exposure

circles of vulnerability
Circles of Vulnerability

Geographical Proximity

Population at Risk

Psychosocial Proximity

developmental reactions to traumatic stress
Developmental Reactions to Traumatic Stress
  • Preschoolers
    • Regressive behaviors
    • Reenacting traumatic events through play
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Anxious attachment
  • Elementary School Children
    • Same as preschoolers, plus:
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Physical symptoms (e.g., stomach aches, headaches, etc.)
    • Disruptive behaviors
    • Withdraw from others

**Importance of caretaker/adult reactions**

developmental reactions to traumatic stress1
Developmental Reactions to Traumatic Stress
  • Adolescents
    • Regression
    • Anger
    • Avoid reminders of traumatic event
    • Loss of hope
    • Guilt
    • Withdrawal
    • Flashbacks
    • Eating problems
    • Sleeping problems (e.g., nightmares)
  • First night of Christmas vacation and tragically a 9th grade boy has just been pronounced dead at the hospital. He was the victim of a scooter accident witnessed by several friends. Large numbers of his friends have gathered at the hospital and now have been told to leave the premises. What do you thing the school principal should do if anything??
theoretical orientation
Theoretical Orientation
  • Primary prevention---- activities to prevent crises
  • Secondary intervention---- short term activities to manage and minimize crisis
  • Tertiary intervention---- long term assistance for those most affected
what are examples of each level in your school
What are examples of each level in your school?
  • Primary prevention
  • Secondary intervention
  • Tertiary intervention
  • What are the three leading causes of death for children?
  • Do you have your students involved in prevention and safety planning?
  • Family cohesion and stability
  • Coping and problem solving skills
  • Positive self worth and impulse control
  • Positive connections to school and extracurricular participation
  • Successful academically
  • Good relationships with other youth
  • Seeks adult help when needed
  • Lack of access to suicidal means
  • Access to mental health care
  • Religiosity
  • School environment that encourages help seeking and promotes health
administrators role in a crisis
Administrators Role in a Crisis
  • Get input from crisis team
  • Inform central administration
  • Activate calling tree but if school is in session then what? Notify faculty by memo or PA system
  • Conduct a faculty meeting asap (examples)
  • Verify the facts and tell the truth
  • Be visible and available
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion
crisis intervention tips for helping students
Crisis Intervention Tips for Helping Students

Share information in developmentally appropriate ways.

No one should be lied to or misled about the circumstances. Recognize all the connections around the school system.

Students need to hear sad or tragic news from trusted adults and should be able to ask questions.

Turn off TVs and gather students in a circle and talk about the event and their perceptions, safety concerns and sources of help.

Help everyone identify previous and current sources of support.

administrator continued
Administrator Continued
  • Contact the family of deceased
  • Empower staff and students
  • Accept outside help when needed
  • Recognize the short and long term impact
  • Keep everyone updated
  • Manage the media and protect staff and students
administrator continued1
Administrator Continued
  • Set aside other duties and focus on crisis
  • Help staff understand the crisis becomes the curriculum
  • Give permission for a range of religious beliefs
  • Examples of effective and non effective responses
  • Death notification examples
roles for support personnel
Roles for Support Personnel
  • Advise the administrator
  • Give permission for a range of emotions
  • Help faculty first
  • Recognize individual crisis history of each person
  • Follow schedule of deceased
support role continued
Support Role Continued
  • Most students will get help they need in classroom
  • Don’t hesitate to call parents
  • Locate additional help
  • Keep records of who was seen and concerns
  • Ensure those most affected receive ongoing services
teachers role
Teachers’ Role
  • Put desks in a circle and sit down
  • Provide factual information
  • Stop rumors
  • Model expression of emotions
  • Give permission for a range of emotions and religious beliefs
  • Know students well and their crisis history and identify students who need counseling help
  • Provide activities such as writing and drawing especially for younger students
teacher continued
Teacher Continued
  • Provide activities such as ceremonies
  • Help students communicate to victim’s family
  • Emphasize no one is to blame
  • Be familiar with developmental stages of death (Piaget)
  • Prepare students for funerals
teacher continued1
Teacher Continued
  • Listen to students as each has a story to tell
  • Five T’s: talk, touch, tears, time and take care of oneself
  • Emphasize coping strategies
  • Help students to remember positives about deceased
  • Don’t minimize the loss or give advice
new term bullicide
New Term Bullicide
  • Parents believe that schools failure to stop the bullying greatly contributed to the suicide of their child
  • Jasperson vs. Anoka-Hennepin case
  • Mrs. Walker’s Congressional testimony 7/8/09
  • Founder of International Bullying Prevention Association Keynote
key issues in the recovery phase school psychologists as crisis intervention team members
Key Issues in the Recovery Phase: School Psychologists as Crisis Intervention Team Members

How to structure recovery section of emergency management plan

Opening or closing schools after an event occurs

Public, staff and student communications

Memorials after a student or staff death

How to handle key dates

sanford model
Sanford Model
  • Developed by a nurse in LA
  • Origins based on CISM from J. Mitchell
  • Examples of use at Columbine and Santana
  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages
Sanford ModelPurposes:-Sort out thoughts.-Identifies what’s needed for safety.-Everyone is likely to talk.-Guided discussion…-Developed to fit a classroom period or faculty meeting.-Mental health professional summarizes and reviews at session’s end.
Benefits- Reduces isolation and increases understanding.- Creates empathetic bonds.- Provides mental health information.- Works well with group size of over 30 and especially with adults and high school students.- Model should be viewed as a starting point.- Ideally model recommended first with faculty and then with students the next day.
Format- Personnel: Facilitator leads the session Timekeeper Caregivers provide assistance to anyone who leaves the room.- Supplies needed: Kleenex Water- Groups of 4-8- Sit in a circle.- One person chosen to respond first.


All comments are confidential.

Each person takes a turn (clockwise).

One person speaks at a time.

Time is limited.

Cross talking is discouraged.

Group members’ responsibility: listen

processing model questions
Processing Model Questions:
  • “Please introduce yourself to the group and discuss where you were when you first became aware of the tragedy and specifically what were your initial sensory perceptions?”
“What has helped you cope when you have had to deal with difficult things or losses in your life before? What can you do to help yourself cope now?”
psychological first aid 8 core actions
Psychological First Aid8 Core Actions

Initiate contact and engagement

Ensure safety and comfort


Gather information on current needs and concerns

Provide practical assistance

Connect with social supports

Provide information on coping

Link with collaborative services

Source: National Child Traumatic Stress Network and National Center for PTSD, Psychological First Aid: Field Operations Guide, September, 2005

agreement on concept of psychological first aide
Agreement on Concept of Psychological First Aide
  • Short term, immediate and efficient
  • Provides comfort, consolation and physical protection
  • Encourages re-uniting victims with family/friends
  • Involves listening, stress management, reassurance and normalization
  • Provides triage and referral
national emergency assistance team www nasponline org
National Emergency Assistance Team
  • More research is needed on processing
  • Crisis intervention needs to be taught in university programs
  • Schools should concentrate on outcomes after interventions such as attendance/discipline/perceived support and grades
  • Processing let’s staff and students know administration cares and they are not alone and trauma will not be ignored----homogenous groupings are best
  • Structure of follow-up services must be planned before processing
  • NASP developed PREPaRE curriculum
litigation and school crisis
Litigation and School Crisis
  • Choquette vs. Onstedt. Schools: facts of case
  • Elementary age students on bus view suicide victim
  • Parents are called immediately and a group activity provided next day for all bus riders(18 students 1st to 6th grade) by sch psych and cs
  • One family does not want their daughter to be told truth—tell teacher to keep an eye on her!!
  • 1st grade student pulled out of school and parents sue claiming PTSD
  • Please discuss merits and issues in this case
school safety examples
School Safety Examples
  • Create safety task force and include students
  • Teach students to deescalate fights
  • Use student safety pledges
  • Floor plan exercise

“My student is fascinated by violent video games and plays them for hours….should I be worried?”

media influence on youth violence
Media Influence on Youth Violence
  • Lt. Col. David Grossman …
  • APA and AMA research
  • Bethel, Alaska perpetrator quote
threat assessment teams recommended by
Threat Assessment Teams Recommended by:
  • FBI
  • Secret Service
  • Colorado Governor’s Report on Columbine
recommendations as to who should be on a school threat assessment team
Recommendations as to who should be on a school threat assessment team?
  • Teacher
  • Security/police
  • Community law enforcement
  • Mental health
  • Administrator
Once a threat is made, having a fair , rational, and standard method of evaluating and responding is critical!
steps in threat assessment
Steps in Threat Assessment
  • Evaluate by interviewing
    • Student who made threat
    • Recipient
    • Witnesses
  • Review all school records
  • Consider circumstances and type of threat
school example
School Example
  • Mrs. Jones a parent calls transportation to report that her daughter Julie received an e-mail from Ben a student which stated he is going to shoot kids on the middle school bus tomorrow. Mrs. Jones is concerned about her daughter’s safety. What should you do as your first step? Who needs to get involved?
case example continued
Case example continued
  • The suspected perpetrator a 7th grade boy is now at school and you are about to interview him
  • What information from his background and school records might be helpful?
  • What approach might you take and what are the key questions you will ask?
  • The suspected perpetrator readily admits that he had intended to shoot everyone on the bus as he has been the victim of repeated bullying and in fact had his thumb broken by another student named John on the bus last week
  • What is your next step and how could you reduce the stressors for this student?
parent interview
Parent Interview
  • What approach do you recommend for approaching the parent?
  • What questions do you want to ask?
  • What is the goal of the parent interview?
parent information
Parent information
  • The father of the suspected perpetrator indicates that he has a number of guns at home and they are unlocked and that his son is experienced with guns---what do you recommend?
  • The father also indicates that his son has not been the same since his mother died last spring and that the father has to work in the evening and his son is unsupervised
  • Rumors are flying around the school about the planned violence on the bus
  • John’s mother has called as she has heard that her son was the primary intended victim
  • What steps do you take to control rumors and what if any information do you provide to faculty, parents and students?
elements of substantial threat
Elements of Substantial Threat
  • Expresses continued intent to harm
  • Repeats over time and shares with others
  • Threats contain specific details
  • Physical evidence of planning
  • Involves using a weapon
  • What are some examples of substantial threats received in your schools?
transient threats
Transient Threats
  • No lasting intent to harm someone “heat of the moment”…feelings dissipate
  • It’s clear threat is over and includes and explanation or apology
  • Can be quickly and easily resolved
  • What are some examples of transient threats you have seen?
classify these threats as transient or substantive
Classify these threats as transient or substantive
  • A student tells other students after school he/she are going to get another student and on interview expresses long standing hatred for the intended victim
  • An angry student threatens to kill another student in class and when interviewed apologizes
  • A student accidentally left a knife in their backpack
project s e r v
Project S.E.R.V.
  • Schools emergency response to violence
  • Money appropriated by Congress
  • Short and long term grants
  • School have received funds in midst of suicide clusters
  • Contact U.S. Department of Education/Safe Schools
“We must reach out to the unreachable!”Craig ScottColumbine SurvivorKeys to prevention are getting disillusioned youth involved in activities, finding a job and establishing social ties!
[email protected] publications :www.sopriswest.comMany articles posted