High School Cafeteria Worker Arrested for Threatening Shooting
On September 4th, police in Connecticut arrested a 69-year-old high school cafeteria worker after the man was overheard threatening to attack the school with a rifle. The suspect told a co-worker he would come to the school in his “army fatigues” armed with an AK-47 to “finish everything” and “off” himself.
Responding officers investigated the threats and deemed them to be credible. Officers searched the suspect’s car (which was parked on school grounds) and located an unloaded .22 caliber rifle in the trunk (pictured above). A search of the suspect’s residence yielded no other weapons or ammunition. The suspect was later charged with making criminal threats and being in possession of a firearm on school grounds.
Key Learning Points
- The suspect made very detailed and specific threats to a co-worker. Detailed, specific threats (including the mention of “fatigues”, an AK-47, and a method of attack/suicide) offer insight into the potential attacker’s mindset and intent.
- The suspect’s co-worker took the threat seriously and reported the threats to the school’s SRO.
- Police initiated a swift investigation and located a weapon in the suspect’s vehicle, which was parked on school grounds. Although the weapon was unloaded, it is indicative of the suspect’s state of mind and lends veracity to his threats.
- The suspect exhibited three classic pre-violence behavioral indicators – Venting (making threats), Planning (acquiring weapons), and Suicidal Ideations (ready to “off” himself).
- The majority of violent attackers are “insiders”, including school employees, students, or friends/family of staff and students.
Iowa Middle School Student Attempts to Shoot Teacher
A 12-year-old student at North Scott Junior High School was arrested after he attempted to shoot his teacher in front of a classroom full of students. The would-be shooter told the other students in the classroom to “get down”, at which point he produced a handgun and pointed it at his teacher’s face from only a few feet away. The would-be shooter pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire. The teacher reacted immediately and decisively, and she was able to wrestle the gun away from the suspect. Police officers responded to the scene, arrested the suspect and took possession of a loaded .22 caliber pistol.
Key Learning Points
- The teacher reacted immediately to OVERCOME the shooter by physical force. In doing so, she may have saved her students’ lives and her own.
- The shooter told the other students to “get down” before attempting to shoot his teacher. Violent attackers are obsessed with maintaining control and asserting power.
- Remember a violent intruder isn’t always someone who is looking to force their way into a classroom. Sometimes that person is already IN the classroom. Develop a plan for what to do should a violent situation present itself right in front of you.
The 3 Pillars of School Safety
In an age of increasing, targeted school violence, it’s tempting to make emotionally-driven decisions when it comes to keeping our kids safe. Many schools and districts have jumped in the deep end, opting for armed teachers, metal detectors, and widespread paranoia. Meanwhile, other educators have chosen the opposite perspective – adopting the “it won’t happen here” mentality and carrying on with business as usual.
As is often the case in life, the best option lies somewhere in between. Certainly, schools need sensible physical security measures, but they shouldn’t feel like prisons. And we can’t afford to ignore the statistics altogether and would be negligent in doing so. At Safe Kids Inc., we recognize targeted school violence is a multi-faceted problem and must be addressed holistically. Therefore, we advocate the following three pillars of school safety:
- Sensible physical security measures: Discreet/reasonable cameras, fencing, and non-militarized security/police personnel
- Knowledge-based responses: A staff and student population who know how to react to violence if and when it arises
- Emotionally-invested people and programs: A healthy school ecosystem that encourages social-emotional wellbeing
The bottom line – there is a deep, social-emotional issue causing an increase in targeted school violence. Until this issue can be identified and addressed, violence will continue to threaten our children. And while we seek a solution to this deeper set of issues, it is important to prepare our children and ourselves for violence in a healthy, non-paranoia-inducing manner. It’s reasonable, it’s healthy, and it’s more important than ever.