Bullying a Probable Cause of the 35th U.S. School Shooting Death in 2018
According to Education Week, a student shot to death at Butler High School in North Carolina represented the 35th school shooting death in the United States since the beginning of 2018. This statistic includes the tragic incidences of mass school violence in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas.
Shortly after 7 a.m. on Monday, October 29, 16-year-old sophomore, Bobby McKeithen was shot to death in a school hallway by a 16-year-old freshman. Students fled from the scene and were locked down in classrooms. Various reports indicate the shooter was among a group of students who were locked down after the shooting occurred. The suspect surrendered himself to a teacher and was arrested within 10 minutes of the shooting.
According to various news outlets, the victim and the suspect had an ongoing feud involving a bullying incident. At this time, these rumors are unconfirmed but are certainly worth considering.
Key Learning Points
- The shooter fled the scene and hid among other students. This same strategy has been utilized by previous school shooters, including the shooter at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
- Students reportedly knew about a feud between the victim and the shooter in the weeks leading up to the shooting. Trusted student-faculty relationships and an anonymous “tip line” or reporting system allow administration to be aware of potentially violent events or safety issues before they happen.
- A school resource officer was on campus and heard the commotion following the shooting. And although this SRO responded within seconds, the suspect was still able to flee the scene and blend in with other students. It’s important that students and staff know how to respond to violence, even if school resource officers or other security personnel are on campus – a lot can happen in a matter of seconds!
- Parents flooded the school minutes after the shooting occurred. Make sure your parents know NOT to come to your school in the event of a critical incident. Historically, frantic parents have clogged access to schools, delaying or preventing first responders from reaching the school. Informing parents about the school’s reunification point(s) at the beginning of the school year and a reliable, text-based parent messaging system can help mitigate this problem.
Violent Mass Knife Attack Averted at Florida Middle School
On Tuesday, October 24th, school administrators, students, and parents thwarted a mass knife attack at a Florida middle school. Two female students (ages 11 and 12) at Bartow Middle School were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder after they were found in possession of several knives and various written pieces of evidence outlining a gruesome attack on their school.
According to investigators, one of the girls made a suspicious comment to another student at the beginning of the school day: “Stay away from Building 500. Something bad is gonna happen.” This student subsequently reported the comment to administrators, who began searching the campus for the girl who made the comment. Simultaneously, local law enforcement officers arrived on campus to address the potential threat. School administrators checked the suspect’s second-period class and discovered she was not in class. A search of the campus was immediately conducted and the assistant principal located both girls huddled together in a bathroom. At the time, they were in possession of a glass “goblet”. Initially, the vice principal thought the girls were drinking alcohol and escorted to the office. The girls were asked to empty their pockets and one of them was found to be in possession of a paring knife and a knife sharpener.
Investigators conducted a more thorough search of the girls’ property at the school and located several more knives, including a butcher knife. Investigators questioned the girls and both admitted to plotting a mass attack at their middle school as an act of Satanic worship. According to investigators, they planned to overpower smaller children, kill them with knives, dismember them, and drink their blood. The girls made statements they wanted to kill at least 15 students with knives, then commit suicide to be united with Satan in hell. Investigators searched the home of one of the girls and found a hand-drawn map of the middle school with a note stating, “Go to kill in the bathroom.” Additionally, investigators located social media conversations between both suspects outlining their plot in detail.
Key Learning Points
- While the facts of this incident may seem quite sensational, they were corroborated with circumstantial evidence that indicated the suspects were intent on committing an act of mass violence at their middle school. Although some threats and rumors of violence may seem too far-fetched to be true, all tips must be investigated and taken seriously.
- The suspects were asked to “empty their pockets” by school administrators. If a student/s are known or suspected to be in possession of weapons, always wait until law enforcement arrives before tipping off a potentially armed and dangerous student.
- The suspects exhibited several known behavioral traits of violent attackers, including “Planning” (drawing maps and acquiring weapons), “Venting” (telling other students of impending violence), expressing suicidal ideations, and consuming violent media.
Texas Police Officer Pulls Gun on Students During Violent Intruder Drill
At Safe Kids Inc., we wholeheartedly encourage safe, age-appropriate, and well-planned violent-intruder drills. And one of the most important considerations of a safe drill is notification to local law enforcement prior to ANY drill, as the following incident clearly demonstrates:
On Wednesday, October 10th, a school resource officer in Baytown, Texas responded to a possible active shooter incident taking place at Clark Elementary School. The officer was unaware a drill was being conducted and responded as if an active shooter was on campus. Unbeknown to the officer, the elementary school was playing out a “hostage situation” active shooter drill, which included two student actors carrying wooden guns around the campus. Fortunately, the SRO quickly surmised the students were actors and their guns were not real, however, the students were put in harm’s way when the officer approached them with his firearm at the ready. Thankfully, the officer in this incident was well trained and reacted with remarkable restraint.
Key Learning Points
- Violent intruder drills should NEVER be conducted without prior notification to local law enforcement and the neighboring community!
- Violent intruder drills should NEVER include student actors!
- Violent intruder drills should NEVER include simulated firearms!
- Violent intruder drills should NEVER include the firing of blanks, airsoft, or simmunition rounds!
- Violent intruder drills should NEVER include simulations of death or injury! We should NOT train to lose – we should always train to win!
- Violent intruder drills should ALWAYS be age-appropriate and take into consideration the anxiety of students, faculty and staff members.
- Violent intruder scenarios should be realistic and simple, learning from past events. Drills should not be reenactments of action movies.
- Violent intruder drills should ALWAYS be planned by safety experts. Contact local law enforcement or a school safety expert for guidance before planning a drill at your school, or refer to the Safe Kids Inc. Drill and Scenario Guide provided with the H.E.R.O. Program.