Preventing School Violence- Part 2
August 21, 2012
Now that we’ve explored the details of school violence, now it’s time to work on the warning signs. We covered this earlier in the year, but because school is starting again for most, I’ll run thru them again. It never hurts to reiterate the important things in preventing the death or assault of another young person.
Threats veiled or overt – This is the most positive sign that something may be coming. Whether it is verbal or a posting on a my space or Facebook account it needs to be taken seriously. And when it comes to the 1st Amendment, threats aren’t protected.
Poor relationships – school, work, recreational, familial: A loner, shy kid, left out but not trying to assimilate, being aggressive for no reason. That is some of the things to look out for.
Bullying – If the student has been repeatedly bullied, teased, or otherwise harassed, they may turn the tables on the tormentor – i.e. Nathan Farris Faucett MO in 1988.
Cruelty to animals – This has been attributed to school shooters as well as adult murderers as well.
Poor health & hygiene: Most of us are old enough to remember the ‘grunge rock’ movement started by Nirvana in the early 90’s. Well times have changed and I think most teenagers know the value of staying in decent health and smelling good.
Poor attendance – This also includes tardiness; does anyone use that term anymore? This is one of those that is fairly self-explanatory, I believe.
Inconsistent work habits – This would also be termed study habits and productivity. Basically this would mean that the teenager will one day whiz thru an assignment that isn’t due for a week or more. At other times, they will drag their feet and not complete assignments, even if they are quite simple – although to many kids homework is never simple.
Impact on teachers/counselors/administration/parent time- This is gradual over time and can often be missed. Every teacher has only a finite length of time to spend with their students. Does one student demand more and more of your time? It can start out as just a minute a day, just like any other student. But over time, this can grow into a significant amount of time for you, either in grade school or the class period in the higher grades.
Unusual or changed behavior – Dressing Goth, withdrawing from activities or some other such thing? But it is with the intent for you to know something has changed. You need to know the child in the first place. If you are the parent, then that should be natural, but it is not. Too many parents make excuses for their troublesome kids – no matter what happens (watch Judge Judy once in a while).
Mood swings – Teenagers are known for this anyway, but does it seem more sudden and extreme? This is definitely a sign that people need to look for, especially if it is extremely sudden and violent.
Safety concerns – Teenagers are at some point gawkyand clumsy, again, is it just the teenager state of mind and growth into adulthood, or is something else wrong, even medical. Especially if the teenager suddenly starts to walk into doors, walls and trips over themselves.
Sudden fascination with weapons – If the teenagers’ family and friends are hunters then it will not be unusual for them discussing the merits of bow over gun hunting. But if they have never shown an interest before this is a red flag shooting up the pole. This also includes blades, chemicals, and etc. The incidence of a teenager becoming suddenly interested in weapons, of any kind, should be problematic for everyone.
Addiction/Immersion in Entertainment – What type of music, television, video games, and movies influencing, not just teenagers but even adults? I know the entertainment business is an easy target but combines with everything else this should be construed as a warning sign. Some people can watch hundreds of hours of slasher movies and never go out and slaughter someone. Someone else can listen to one song or play one game and they turn into a mass killing machine.
Signs of drug and/or alcohol abuse – There is a myriad of information about spotting and dealing with these addictions available.
Unshakeable depression – Again, teenagers are always depressed for one reason or another, but how long does it last? The longer it lasts and the more frequent the bouts, the more you should be worried.
Continual Excuses: Sounds like the stereotypical teenager. But we are talking about something that goes farther. A teenager that is constantly making excuses for minor and trivial things is alarming with anything you ask. That’s the magnitude of the excuse giving I’m talking about. Again, it’s not unusual for a kid to make excuses to avoid being in trouble, but you have to be observant.
Serious life stressors – Remember there are many things that will stress out your teenager without stressing you. Listen to them. Sometimes they just want someone to listen. Not everyone wants someone else to solve their problems. Maybe this is all they need.
New Religious Fervor – This generally holds true for college students rather than high schoolers, but it can happen at any age and level of school. This is one place where parents have the responsibility to teach their kids a key word- tolerance. If the parents don’t teach their children tolerance for others beliefs, then it can be detrimental to the kids and the school. And if the child listens to the fervent and strident fervor of the parents or other influential people…
Obsession With Military\Police Tactics – This is another one that sometimes will not be easy to spot. Most boys will have a fascination with all things military. The uniforms, blowing things up, the rapid fire of machine guns and playing army/cowboys & Indians etc. And to a certain point the same holds true with police work.
However, if these kids are studying tactics and haven’t expressed an interest in joining our military or being a police officer, then that may be a red flag. These kids will study tactics in many forms to learn how the military or police will react in an incident and how to avoid them altogether. Just because they study these things, don’t think your teenagers are ready to commit violence.
This isn’t all the warning signs, but there will never be an all inclusive list of warning signs or perpetrator profile, or types of firearms used or anything else when it comes to violence in our society. But I also think it would be appropriate to reiterate that one or two of these signs are more than likely just a teenager being a teenager. But when these signs begin to add up and you’re getting 6, 7, 8 or more in short period of time you need to be worried.
But, how do you know how to recognize these students, how do you prevent another Columbine from occurring at your school? The answer is simple and yet very complex and at the same time difficult to ascertain.
In the last part of this blog series we’ll look at the things a school can do to help recognize and/or prevent an incident of violence in the school. But remember, unless we turn our schools into an armed camp with heavily armed ‘truant’ officers roaming the campus, we’ll never have a truly violence free school.
Questions, comments, suggestions? Call or write please. And just a short sales pitch – my seminar is available for any group wishing to safeguard kids.