6 Types of Student Behavior That Can Signal an Upcoming Crisis Event

Child found pistol in drawer at home

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In an analysis of targeted acts of school violence, the U.S. Secret Service found that plotters showed six common concerning behaviors in the months—sometimes years—prior to the discovery of their plots.  

For 40% of the plotters, there was at least one person who expressed concern or responded by taking some type of action like asking about their well-being. For 23% of the plotters, they had at least one concerning behavior, yet it did not elicit any response or action from others. 

The six most common concerning behaviors include: 

  1. Indicating an Intent to Attack 

Most plotters communicate—whether through conversations, social media posts, writings, or in drawings—their plans prior to the event.  

2. Showing an Interest in Violence 

The report shows that two-thirds of the plotters showed an interest in violence, including “expressing white supremacists views and watching animal cruelty videos.”  

3. Showing an Interest in Weapons 

A student who has an unusual interest in weapons may brag about their weapons either online or in-person, depict weapons in drawings, write about weapons, or ask friends to store weapons for them.  

4. Harassing Others 

Many plotters threaten or harass others; this behavior includes “physical altercations with family members, making threats, name-calling, and making incessant phone calls.”  

5. Displaying Concerning Mental Status 

Some of the plotters studied in the report talked about or showed behavior related to suicide or self-harm. Many also experienced emotional issues, showed signs of depression, and/or asked to see a therapist.  

6. Changing Behaviors 

Another red flag is when a student engages in “increasingly rebellious behavior [and has] increased instances of anger.” This is especially concerning if the student also has a decline in academic performance or attendance.  

Lessons Learned from Recent School Shootings

There were many lessons learned from the 2021 Rigby Middle School shooting. Several students saw the attacker make concerning posts on social media, and one student saw a drawing the attacker created that depicted a gun and a school. Some students also noticed the attacker’s appearance and level of social engagement changed. While these students were concerned, they did not share their insight with school staff until after the shooting. 

For the Oxford High School shooting—the deadliest shooting on school grounds since 2018—the attacker posted about his new gun on social media before the tragedy. On the morning of the shooting, a teacher found a note on the attacker’s desk. It showed a wounded person, a gun, a laughing emoji, the words “the thoughts won’t stop help me,” among other disturbing details 

Schools Must be Prepared

Schools must have a method of gathering information about concerning behavior, thoroughly vet every threat, and collaborate with mental health professionals and law enforcement. While law enforcement is investigating threats and making sure the school is protected, mental health professionals can begin addressing the student. 

Each school must also have a school safety ecosystem, which is a toolbox of various components that can help schools quickly and efficiently respond to incidents. The Raptor School Safety Suite is a valuable component of the ecosystem. Raptor helps schools keep unwanted entrants out, manage volunteers, and confidently respond to any emergency—all in one, user-friendly integrated suite. 

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