Report Indicates Parkland Shooter was Denied Services
Earlier this month, a Florida judge ordered the release of a report about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter. This report, which was prepared by an independent consultant on behalf of the Broward public school system, provided a glimpse into the years leading up to the mass shooting in February.
According to the report, the shooter was classified as “developmentally delayed” and was provided with special education accommodations at an early age, including in-home family counseling, speech therapy, peer counseling, and other services. Due to increasing aggressive behaviors, the shooter was transferred to a full-time special education campus designed to help students with severe emotional and behavioral disorders.
In May 2015, the district decided the shooter would benefit from a “mainstream setting” and enrolled him at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he remained until his junior year, until he had an “emotional meltdown.” During his time at MSDHS, the shooter benefited from special education services. The district elected to transfer the shooter back to a special education school, but the shooter refused and was adamant he would graduate from MSDHS. The district told the shooter he had two choices – stay at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and sign a waiver surrendering all special services or go to a designated special education school. The shooter chose to sign away his rights and stay at MSDHS. Without the extra protections provided by special education services, the shooter began to fail his classes and was eventually removed from MSDHS by the administration.
The shooter continued to struggle after enrolling in another special education school, and on Nov. 1, 2017, the shooter’s mother died unexpectedly. On Feb. 14, 2018, the shooter returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and murdered 17 students and faculty.
Key Learning Points
- The shooter displayed consistent aggressive behavior throughout his young life.
- An independent consultant confirmed the shooter should have been able to stay at MSDHS with full special education services and protections.
- Review procedures when placing students with disabilities or behavioral issues in “mainstream” environments. Such changes can have adverse effects on students, causing undue stress, anger, depression, or other psychological trauma.
- Hindsight is always 20/20, but it’s important to analyze past incidents and identify patterns and triggers.
Violence in Schools has Increased 113% Since Last Year – Here’s Why:
According to a study released by the Educator’s School Safety Network, schools were impacted by 279 violent incidents during the 17/18 school year, up from 131 incidents during the previous year. Additionally, nearly 1,300 more threats were made during the same time period.
So, what’s caused this uptick in violence? According to Amy Klinger, the co-author of the aforementioned study, the main reason schools are seeing increasing violence is a lack of proactive efforts when dealing with threats and warning signs. Additionally, Klinger highlighted a lack of general knowledge about pre-violence indicators among educators. If you or your staff are unfamiliar with pre-violence behavioral indicators, seek professional development via programs like H.E.R.O. or through other reputable sources.
Key Learning Points
- School violence is increasing.
- Most educators are unaware of pre-violence behavioral indicators. Every teacher and staff member should know pre-violence behavioral indicators and how to respond or report them.
- The most common type of violent incidents involves firearms on school campuses.
- Have a system in place to deal with threats, such as an anonymous tip line or threat-reporting software.
- Ensure there are measures and personnel to fully investigate any report and document the findings.
Parents Oppose Active Shooter Training Video for Elementary Students
In a well-intentioned effort to protect their students, the Pinellas County School Board (Florida) created a series of active shooter training videos to be shown to students in grades K-2. When the videos were previewed, parents were outraged by messaging such as, “active assailant”, “Run. Hide. Fight.”, and images of SWAT members running with rifles. In response, the school board elected not to show these videos to students in grades K-2.
Unfortunately, many schools and districts create traumatic and ineffective active shooter training resources for various reasons. While these attempts are certainly made in good faith, they can traumatize students and create bad publicity for schools and districts. When presenting frightening and potentially-traumatic concepts to young children, it’s critical to convey safety concepts in ways that not only protects them from trauma, but empowers them! Children and teachers don’t have to be afraid – they can be heroes!
Key Learning Points
- Schools and districts should be very cautious when creating active shooter training resources for young students.
- We DO NOT recommend teaching young students to “Fight” violent intruders.
- Parents should be consulted regarding active shooter education.
- Teachers are the best way to teach students about active shooters, not outside trainers or law enforcement.