It is a beautiful autumn day, the kind you expect anywhere in the country. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, the leaves are beginning to explode with color, and the laughter of young voices carries across the grass. They are all oblivious to the darkening storm clouds forming on the horizon.
The class loser is walking towards them with an angry scowl and wearing a long overcoat, but that is nothing unusual for him since the divorce. He’s been in a funky sour mood since his sophomore year, when his parents got the divorce and his dad moved to the east coast, 2,000 miles away. His class attendance has slipped and he’s even been expelled once for bringing a knife to class and making threats against teachers & students.
Since then, he’s become even more of a loner, and even started wearing Goth clothes although he doesn’t hang with or even like them or even their scene. A recent fascination with all sorts of weapons has startled his mother, but she’s working 3 jobs to keep them fed and housed. And the neighbors seem to be losing their pets lately.
Few of his friends know that he’s been sick a lot recently because he’s always skipping school and they don’t hang out much anymore because he rarely takes a bath or uses deodorant. And he gets extremely defensive if you try to talk to him. He’s also been seen with the druggies as of late. And to most people this indicates he’s using also.
Add to that, he’s been tripping and walking into stuff a lot. And on top of that, his grades are not consistent from week to week or even day to day, providing he’s actually in class. He’s argumentative with everyone including administration and his own mother. The police have brought him home several times for random delinquent behavior.
He walks into the common area and hunkers down in his overcoat, the collar up. His scowling look making him a path. He walks into a group of students waiting for the bell to start class. The shooter decided he wanted to teach those who didn’t care about him a lesson. He wants to go out in a blaze of glory. He wants be on the news and all over the country he would be famous.
Someone remarks that he stinks. He bellows a gut-wrenching yell, throws back his coat and unloads a stream of 9mm hollow points into the one who said it.
An instant of stunned silence falls before the depths of hell pounces its rage out on another high school. When it’s all over dozens lay dead and wounded. Now maybe his mom, dad, & classmates would pay him some attention and talk about him. Just because he didn’t want to talk didn’t mean s***!
The blood splatter on the wall and removing the carpet is easy. Restoring the sanity of students and parents will not be. And what do you tell those parents when they show up at the school or hospital?
Fortunately, this is a scenario that most of us as security professionals will never have to face. But it’s just as frightening even if the chances are remote.
As security professionals, we plan for such events on a daily basis. We train, read, organize, and attend seminars. We plan and meet with administrators. We try to encourage good security habits amongst the staff. Simply put, to do our jobs. And still it happens. In December 2007 Junior Achievement, in conjunction with Deloitte and Touché, released a survey with some startling statistics. The survey , which was intended for the workplace but translates well to our schools, stated the 39% of 13 to 18 year Old’s believe that that lying, stealing, and cheating were acceptable ways of getting ahead in life.
That’s startling enough, but 23% said that some level of violence against a co-worker is acceptable. If it is acceptable against a co-worker, what does that make it against another student?
Most of us would have seen the warning signs in the scenario I started with. But, over a period of a few years, would we just accept the fact that that student is who he is and leave him alone? I point them all out here and they are easy to see. The warning signs are always there no matter what anyone states or believes.
Does this mean that every kid that discovers an interest in Goth attire and make-up is a candidate for a Columbine style attack? No. Some kids are just in the process of discovering themselves and need a little latitude. Latitude yes, alone time and being a loner. NO. Being a loner can mean a lot of things, with the obvious choice being violent, but it’s not the only one.
(NOTE: this is the first part of a 5 part series. The next post will focus on warning signs of student)
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear