10 Takeaways From the 2021 Secret Service School Safety Analysis

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In the study titled, “Averting Targeted School Violence: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools”, the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) researched 67 foiled plans of violence against K-12 schools between 2006–2018. The study found that people who are on the verge of committing violence usually show signs, and when these signs are reported by community members, violent incidents can be prevented.  

As community members report their concerns, it should go through a threat assessment process. Although it may be necessary under certain circumstances, the purpose of threat assessment is not to punish students or send them to jail, but rather provide them with assistance—like mental health support—and help prevent situations from escalating. 

Listed below are 10 key takeaways from the study: 

  1. Communities must identify and report suspicious behavior to prevent violence from occurring 

During a Raptor webinar, Frank DeAngelis, Retired Principal of Columbine High School, advised schools to look for red flags. “If your students are making reference(s) to the Columbine shooters and glorifying these kids, that’s a red flag” DeAngelis states. Knowing what to look out for and reporting this type of behavior is crucial to preventing future crises.  

2. Schools should address concerning behavior from students before it results in legal consequences 

The purpose of threat assessment is not to send students to jail or have them criminally investigated, but rather to prevent their behavior from escalating to the point where it becomes a threat to their own safety and to the safety of others.   

3. The most common cause for planning a school attack was due to conflict with other students  

The study found that similarly to students who carried out attacks on their school, plotters were driven by conflicts with other students, thus demonstrating the importance of interventions and de-escalation programs. 

4. Students are the most well-suited to identify and report worrisome behavior exhibited by their classmates 

Often, students are able to identify red flags before school staff. Threatening social media posts, graphic drawings depicting violence, and a change in the plotter’s appearance and level of social engagement are all signs that something may be wrong. Unfortunately, although students may observe concerning behavior, they don’t always report it. Schools must provide training and resources for their students and simplify the reporting process. 

5. Parents and other family members can prevent crises by identifying worrisome behavior  

In the study, eight plots were reported by the plotter’s family. Sometimes, the plotter’s classmates may report concerning behavior to their parents, who then file a report on their children’s behalf to school personnel or law enforcement. The U.S. Secret Service recommends informing families about the kinds of concerning behavior to look out for, and the resources available to report them.  

6. School Resource Officers (SROs) play a critical role in preventing school violence  

The study found that in about one-third of cases, the SRO either reported a plot or responded to a report that someone else had placed. Eight times, an SRO had received the report of a plot from someone, thus emphasizing the importance of their role as a figure the school community can confide in. 

7. Plotters may still pose a threat to themselves and others, even if they’re no longer at the school they’re plotting against

“Five plotters in this study were recently former students who had left school within one academic year of the plot,” the study explains. Students may still be a risk to themselves or those around them if they are removed from the school without receiving the help they need. 

8.  Students who show a fascination in violence or topics that promote hate should be assessed and sent to intervention

As previously mentioned, showing interest in past incidents of violence, such as the Columbine High School attack, is a red flag. In fact, school attackers from research conducted by the NTAC, as well as the plotters mentioned in this study, both displayed interest in these types of subjects. About one-third of plotters incorporated research from past incidents of violence into their own plans. Furthermore, nine plotters showed interest in topics related to the holocaust and racism. 

9. Certain dates are more common for plotters to plan their attacks on

Plotters sometimes choose dates associated with past tragedies or infamous people. For example, April 20th is a common date for plotters because it is the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Schools should be more alert towards the start and end of the school year, as those are also common times for plotters to plan their attacks for. 

10. Many plotters had easy access to weapons

The study found that in seven cases, plotters obtained firearms because they were allowed access to the safe where they were being stored in at home, they were able to break open the safe, found the key to unlock it, or they stole the firearms before they were able to be put back in the safe.

How can Raptor help?

Raptor Emergency Management allows schools to conduct drills, respond to emergencies in collaboration with first responders, complete the reunification process up to four times quicker, and more. Raptor Alert enables users to request immediate assistance for any incident quickly and easily. 

To learn more, contact us today to schedule a personalized demo.