Active Shooter Tip Lines Uncover Teen Suicide Crisis
Adolescent suicide rates have increased 56% in the past decade (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control), yet much of the national conversation related to school safety revolves around active shooter incidents. While active shooter incidents are rare, they are linked to increasing teen suicide rates: according to the Secret Service, the vast majority of active shooters expressed suicidal ideations prior to committing an attack.
In an effort to prevent mass shootings, many schools have established anonymous tip lines. And while these tip lines were created to intercept active shooter threats, they’ve inadvertently prevented numerous suicides and uncovered bullying incidents.
Key Learning Points
- Anonymous tip lines should be made available to students.
- Students prefer to “text” anonymous tips as opposed to making phone calls.
- Anonymous tip lines are a critical component of school safety infrastructure.
- Students are more likely to “help” a classmate than “report” them. Make sure that your tip line messaging incorporates “helpful” verbiage, not punitive verbiage.
Preparing for School Shootings at After-hours Events
Since August 2019, there have been 20 separate incidents of shootings occurring at school sporting events after hours. Tragically, there have been at least 19 people killed and more than 100 wounded in shootings connected to school sporting competitions.
The vast majority of after-hours shootings do not fall within the definition of an “active shooter” and typically involve targeted violence predicated on existing disputes and gang associations. Regardless of the motivation, these types of incidents can be just as dangerous as an “active shooter” incident: during a recent shooting at an Alabama high school football game, nine spectators were shot.
Key Learning Points
- Ensure adequate security personnel are present at school events that draw large crowds. Security personnel should be present in parking lots and at event entry/exit points.
- Establish access control at all entrances to school sporting events.
- Many schools have active shooter training for incidents during school hours, but few schools are prepared for shooting incidents that occur in populated outdoor areas. Review your school safety plan and incorporate emergency response procedures and training to include after-hours events.
- The majority of after-hours shootings are associated with basketball and football games.
- Click here to enroll in a free after-school event safety course provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
Florida Grand Jury Report Reveals School Safety Shortcomings
According to a recent Florida grand jury report, many Florida schools have failed to comply with the School Safety Act (Florida Senate Bill 7026), which was enacted in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman-Douglas shooting. According to Florida Senator Lauren Book, a member of the Marjory Stoneman-Douglas Public Safety Commission:
“The fact that many of the same critical safety issues that allowed one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings to occur still persist today should scare us all – and I do not believe that we are much safer today than we were February 14, 2018. Not because of inaction on the part of the Public Safety Commission or the Florida legislature, but because of some school districts’ continued effort to subvert the law out of convenience or self-interest. We cannot tolerate this.”
Politicians do not always understand the challenges school administrators face, particularly when it comes to implementing changes to school safety protocols. That being said, schools and districts should make every effort to comply with grand jury mandates to ensure the safety of students and avoid legal consequences.
Key Learning Points
- Local governments across the country have released grand jury reports demanding schools and districts within their jurisdictions initiate school safety upgrades. While some schools and districts have complied, others have not, thereby exposing themselves to significant liability.
- The Florida grand jury found that many schools and districts were underutilizing existing school security programs and reporting tools.
- Several districts misused funds dedicated for school safety infrastructure and programs.
- Behavioral threat assessment teams were found to be underqualified, inexperienced, and/or untrained.
- Several districts under-reported or failed to report criminal incidents occurring on campus.