SCHOOL SHOOTERS COME FROM YOUR OWN CAMPUS, NOT FROM “OUTSIDE.”
First, there was Dr. James E. Shaw, who was the only researcher allowed inside the nation’s state youth prisons to interview girls and boys incarcerated for committing murder and homicide. The stories they told him, about their odysseys from life at home to life in prison, further shocked an already-numbed nation; the country’s press had already been cranking out stories about kids suddenly making their schoolyards into graveyards. Out of the mouths of babes—Dr. Shaw’s research respondents—came truths and facts that demanded teachable moments and the establishing and practicing of common core elements to ensure the nation’s phenomenon of “adolescentcide”—the term Dr. Shaw invented for children killing children—would cease, desist and be gone forever.
Dr. Shaw documented his findings and conclusions in his landmark and media-acclaimed book, "Jack and Jill, Why They Kill: Saving Our Children, Saving Ourselves." Schools and colleges around the country, as well as law enforcement academies, use this book for its theoretical premises, training purposes and practical, evidence-based components. Two judges, one county sheriff, and a former director of Head Start wrote endorsements for the dustcover of Jack and Jill, Why They Kill.
Again, most school shooters do not come from the “outside.” They come from on-campus and are known (although not necessarily liked and respected) by almost everybody on campus. They are “insiders” who, like resistant weeds, dot the landscape of the school. They are not happy, though everybody else might be. They feel unsafe and insecure, though everybody else might feel free and inspired. They might have been battered at home or have deep-seated anger and resentment for being so treated by those who were supposed to love and protect them. Maybe they’ve been ridiculed or bullied by the campus “favorites”: the star athlete, the prom queen (or both), or the academic “brain.” Perhaps they won’t be getting a car for successfully completing the 11th or 12th grade. Or maybe they did not return to a new semester, or from the summer hiatus, filled with enchanting adventures with which to regale their buddies.
Again, most school shooters do not come from the “outside.” They are well-known “insiders.” Expelled former students, feeling cut off, left out, kicked out, and unwanted, have returned to their campuses, fully armed with handguns and military-type assault rifles, to declare war and extract justice. In February 2018, an expelled student named Nikolas Cruz (19 years old) returned to the Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, wearing a gas mask and carrying military automatic weapons, and strode past the main office with apparently nobody noticing...until it was horribly too late! By then, seventeen people, including students, teachers and a coach had been slaughtered.
Schools seem to be forgetting what their expelled students look like. In Newtown, Connecticut, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in December 2012, 20-year old Adam Lanza, an expelled student, randomly unleashed his fury and fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members. Before driving to the school, he shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home. Lanza, hearing first responders arriving at the scene, then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Schools need to reach out to their local law enforcement agencies and request onsite visits for critical appraisals of the safety of their campuses. Though many schools prefer open campuses to fenced in, locked, closed campuses--many teachers and administrators say "closed campuses make them feel as though they're working a prison or detention camp--they need to hire personnel and equipment, such as powerful Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras to monitor persons entering the campus. School shooters NEVER check in at the Main Office. I would strongly recommend professionally-trained canines to reinforce the adult campus surveillance staff.
No longer can we, as professional educators, expel a student and forget about him, as though his expulsion is an out of sight, out of mind event. Human beings, especially busy adults, regularly forget vital information, including the names and physical characteristics of people they once knew. Expelled students who might have been skinny and clean-shaven, at the time of their expulsion, may return to your school a couple of years later bearded, significantly heavier, and wearing a baseball cap...if not a gas mask, as Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at the Stoneman Douglas High School, did. We cannot afford to forget what our expelled former students look like. Facial Recognition Software could possibly be an important tool for the Main Office. Asking your local law enforcement agency to request their police artist to provide updated and aged facsimile drawings of students expelled in the past, might prove highly effective in recognizing them should they arrive unsuspectingly on your campus.