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Legislative Update

New Secret Service report on school shootings; Experts advise vigilance as schools reopen

by | Mar 31, 2021 | Legislative Update Blog, National Issue | 0 comments

From NSBA National Connection:

ABC News (3/30) reports a study released Tuesday by the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center suggests “targeted violence against schools is preventable, if the warning signs are identified.” The report “studied 67 thwarted school violence plots and 100 plotters to come up with a framework to further prevent school attacks.” The agency determined there were “several consistent factors in attacks that were prevented and attacks that happened, such as a history of discipline or law enforcement interaction, if the plotter had experienced bullying or had underlying mental health issues, intended to commit suicide or had been impacted by childhood conditions.” The Secret Service also “found that 45% of the attacks planned, but not carried out, were based on a grievance with a classmate,” and that “15% of potential attackers wanted to kill.”

The AP (3/30, Long) reports the study found the “plotters were overwhelmingly male; five were female. The youngest was 11, the oldest 19.” In addition, in 3 out of 4 attacks “the plotters had access to weapons, mostly from inside their own homes, and more than half had already acquired weapons. Some had homemade explosives. More than half documented their plans through a to-do list or some kind of written justification for their actions.” Most importantly, the researchers said that “about 94% talked about their attacks and what they intended to do in some way, whether orally or electronically, and 75% were detected because the plotters talked about them. About 36% were thwarted within two days of their intended attacks.” Steven Driscoll, one of the authors, said, “The study found expelling students doesn’t eliminate the risk” of violence. Instead, the key is to “address bullying, provide mental health support and assess the impact of stressors in the home.”

Also reporting are CBS News (3/30), Reuters (3/30, Staff), and Forbes (3/30, Holzberg).

Experts Warn About A Return To Mass Shootings As Schools Reopen. The Seventy Four (3/30, Keierleber) reports that until this month, “there wasn’t a single mass shooting in a public space during the pandemic, according to data from The Violence Project, a nonprofit research center focused on reducing such tragedies.” But in the “wake of back-to-back mass shootings this month in Colorado and Georgia as communities reopen, school safety experts said the carnage should serve as a wake-up call for educators, warning about the potential for violent outbursts as students repopulate classrooms.” Forensic psychologist Jillian Peterson, co-founder of The Violence Project, said, “We’ve sort of forgotten about it. There’s such a desperation to get back to normal but our normal is, in the United States we have a lot of horrific mass shootings.” School safety experts are also concerned about “the pandemic’s effects on youth mental well-being…as children return to schools.” Peterson “emphasized the need for schools to better support students’ emotional well-being, noting that risk factors like trauma, suicidal ideation, depression…were all elevated over the last year.”

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