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Author Topic: 10 Myths About School Shootings  (Read 5226 times)


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10 Myths About School Shootings
« on: December 06, 2006, 06:59:57 AM »

10 myths about school shootings
Bill Dedman, MSNBC Investigative reporter

Here are 10 myths about school shootings, compiled by from a 2002 study by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education. The researchers studied case files and other primary sources for 37 attacks by current or former students, and also interviewed 10 of the perpetrators.

Myth No. 1: 'He didn't fit the profile'
Students often communicate their plans before attacks. Kip Kinkel wrote in his journal, "Hate drives me. ... I am so full of rage. ... Everyone is against me. ... As soon as my hope is gone, people die." After he was expelled for bringing a gun to school in Springfield, Ore., the 15-year-old killed his parents, then two students in the school cafeteria, on May 21, 1998.  
The profile of the gun-toting student in a trench coat is just one of the myths about the rare but murderous attacks in the nation’s schools. In fact, there is no profile. “There is no accurate or useful ‘profile’ of students who engaged in targeted school violence,” the researchers found.

The stereotypes of teens in Goth makeup or other types of dress are not useful in preventing attacks. Just as in other areas of security -- workplace violence, airplane hijacking, even presidential assassination -- too many innocent students will fit any profile you can come up with, and too many attackers will not.

“The demographic, personality, school history, and social characteristics of the attackers varied substantially,” the report said. Attackers were of all races and family situations, with academic achievement ranging from failing to excellent.

Most, but not all, have been male, though that fact alone doesn't help an adult rule in or out someone as dangerous.

Myth No. 2. “He just snapped.”
Rarely were incidents of school violence sudden, impulsive acts. Attackers do not “just snap,” but progress from forming an idea, to planning an attack, to gathering weapons. This process can happen quickly, but sometimes the planning or gathering weapons are discoverable.

Myth No. 3. “No one knew.”
Before most of the attacks, someone else knew about the idea or the plan. "In most cases, those who knew were other kids: friends, schoolmates, siblings and others. However, this information rarely made its way to an adult." Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help.

Myth No. 4. “He hadn’t threatened anyone.”
Too much emphasis is placed on threats. Most attackers did not threaten, and most threateners did not attack. A child who talks of bringing a gun to school, or seeking revenge on teachers or classmates, poses a threat, whether or not a threat is made.

Myth No. 5. “He was a loner.”
In many cases, students were considered in the mainstream of the student population and were active in sports, school clubs or other activities.
Only one-quarter of the students hung out with a group of students considered to be part of a “fringe group.”

Myth No. 6. “He was crazy.”
Only one-third of the attackers had ever been seen by a mental health professional, and only one-fifth had been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Substance abuse problems were also not prevalent. “However, most attackers showed some history of suicidal attempts or thoughts, or a history of feeling extreme depression or desperation.” Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures.

Myth No. 7. “If only we’d had a SWAT team or metal detectors.”
Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were over well before a SWAT team could have arrived. Metal detectors have not deterred students who were committed to killing themselves and others.

Myth No. 8. “He’d never touched a gun.”
Most attackers had access to weapons, and had used them prior to the attack. Most of the attackers acquired their guns from home.

Myth No. 9. “We did everything we could to help him.”
"Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack," and said they had tried without success to get someone to intervene. Administrators and teachers were targeted in more than half the incidents.

Myth No. 10. “School violence is rampant.”
It may seem so, with media attention focused on a spate of school shootings. In fact, school shootings are extremely rare. Even including the more common violence that is gang-related or dispute-related, only 12 to 20 homicides a year occur in the 100,000 schools in the U.S. In general, school assaults and other violence have dropped by nearly half in the past decade.

« Last Edit: December 06, 2006, 07:04:37 AM by »


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Re: 10 Myths About School Shootings
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2006, 11:49:03 AM »

Hmmmmm. I'm wondering about some of these.

In myth 1 he states that there is no profile, yet myth 9 states that many felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by their peers. Isn't that a profile. Who's more likely to shoot the place up? The school's star quarterback or Waldo the nerd?

As far as crazy goes....You shoot up your high're crazy. period. I have done a little research of my own in the past. Quite a few of these kids are on Ritalin or other psychotropic drugs. I think there is a connection there. I'm sure if you do a search on this forum, you can find where I pointed this out about a recent shooting.

Myth 10 "School violence is rampant". Well...if you compare it to when I was in school it is. And sense when does violence only include murder?

Just some observations. Maybe some taling points?


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Re: 10 Myths About School Shootings
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2006, 12:26:43 PM »

On myth 10, School Violence is thing we did note, when you add the total number of schools today (numbering gazillions) and the total of kids attending schools (gazillions) per ratio studies show that actual violence is minscule and even crimes rates very small.



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Re: 10 Myths About School Shootings
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2006, 12:56:18 PM »

This comes from my July Blog Page, and relates greatly to this subject.

By SEALE Academy Director Ron Borsch

Imagine an incident in your community where homicide/attempted homicide was being commit-ed on children, at the average rate of 2.3 per minute! As shocking as this may sound, it can and has occurred, twice in “Active Shooter” incidents, both school scenarios, one each in the USA, Columbine), and Germany. The “Stopwatch of Death” terminology gives both greater impact and another dimension to the death toll in these time-sensitive crimes.

Active shooter incidents have been occurring everywhere for years, but it was not until the in-cident at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado, that law enforcement got a serious wake-up call on the penalties for failure to respond quickly. Possibly the biggest change for law en-

forcement was the idea that we could no longer wait for a part-time SWAT team, that first responders needed to both address the matter, and do it quickly. Aside from the fact that it often takes tragedy to get more training and equipment for officers, the new rapid response methods that began developing, were a good thing for law enforcement.

Early on, trainers began to recognize that their first responder students needed more convincing so they could understand the different dynamics of a school active shooter scenario. What we learn from the literature, on less than a couple dozen incidents, is that the majority of active shooter incidents involve a single shooter. Only two incidents involved two shooters. No incid-ents had more than two shooters, (but that, of course, could change in the future). Juveniles are especially susceptible to copycat crimes, and as they get older, merging into the workforce, the active shooting can naturally erupt into workplace violence, (D. Grossman).
The SEALE Regional Police Academy in Bedford, Ohio, innovated the instructional tool, the “ Stopwatch of Death ”. Its use seems to be a valuable teaching asset in illustrating the need for speed. It seemed that no one else in the business had bothered to crunch the figures of avail-able data. For example, in known school shootings, there were only four known times. While this is a very small database, nonetheless, knowing that the average active shooter time is probably less than fourteen minutes , gives the first responder student a handle on understanding the need for speed.
The shortest known active shooter school time was little more than nine minutes , when a tactical first responder with a rifle aborted it , in Red Lake Minnesota. The longest known time was twenty minutes, at Montreal University in Canada. Both stopwatch of death numbers, were 1.4 murders/attempted murders per minute. The stopwatch of death is an important factor in understanding that in a large building, such as a school, the contact team cannot possibly search every room, and that their primary environment , lacking visual, hearing, smell or other intelligence clues, (“ Sight-Sound-Smell-Intell ”), will be hallways . On the subject of sound, training experiments and homicide investigations have revealed that in the same building, it is possible to be unaware of active gunfire in the same building, due to ambient noise, baffling, Etc.
For the first responder, the shock of violating previous training by rapidly passing rooms they have not searched, the stopwatch of death, along with training information the passed rooms will be covered by the contact teams rear guard , (and will be followed-up by a separate Search & Rescue team ), assists in understanding these new, (to them), dynamic methods.

The stopwatch of death is part of the preparation of our minds, and on that note, a relevant in-cident comes to mind. One of my hero's and warrior models is Stacy Lim, LAPD, Stacy survived and won an off-duty gunfight, which began with her being chest-shot with a .357 Magnum, (a tennis ball size exit wound out her back). She won the gunfight by staying in the fight with a real warrior's focus, pure aggression, flawless pistolcraft, (both participants moving, Stacy hit with all four of her fired rounds), and by being physically fit. The remainder of the several gang-bang-er's fled in the face of aggression from a real warrior.
The gunman died, as did Stacy, (three times, once in the ambulance and twice on the operating table). The medical hero's involved, and Stacy's will to survive combined to enable her to return to full duty eight months later. I had the honor of shaking Stacy's hand in Ontario California at an ASLET, (American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers), seminar where she spoke. Her mess-age theme was “ YOU MUST PREPARE YOUR MIND FOR WHERE YOUR BODY MAY HAVE TO GO ”. Stacy's inspiring message seems especially appropriate for the role of the Tactical Fist Responder, and I show a video clip reenactment of her performance in our courses.

We conclude with an interesting story as to how the “Stopwatch of Death” got its name. Years ago, a couple of hours into a Tactical First Responder course at our academy, (and after a great deal of emphasis on facts and data supporting the need for speed to save lives had been given, via audiovisual, Lecture/Power-Point), I was astonished by a students comment: “ Ron, you are making a really big deal about speed here, it's not like someone has a stopwatch on us ”! Momentarily caught speechless, I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying something like …minds and parachutes work best when open, (where was his mind during the mental preparation portion of class?)….
My slow but spontaneous response was “Thanks, you have given me a terrific idea. I need to re-title a section of my Power-Point slides the STOPWATCH OF DEATH”! More than a mere catch-phrase, the “Stopwatch of Death” has proven to be a quite popular section of our Tactical First Responder course, and is being used with permission, by fellow trainers in a new national seminar program.

Ron Borsch is a commissioned Consultant-Trainer for the Bedford Ohio Police Dept where he is semi-retired after a 30 year career as a Patrol officer, Rangemaster, Active and Defensive Tactics Instructor, and SWAT operator. A hobby trainer since 1976, Ron manages and is the lead trainer at SEALE Regional Training Academy, (a seven community cooperative). His Tactical First Responder course has been the most popular course at the academy for over four years. Ron's ideas, tactics or techniques have appeared on police internet sites, law enforcement journals, and on an International seminar CD.

Please do not reprint this without Ron's permission!


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Re: 10 Myths About School Shootings
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2007, 08:06:06 PM »

I'd say this answers a lot of my questions about what has just happened.  This is also very applicable to the NOW recent shooting at VA.

In a way, there is not a single profile that fits a shooter, but I see there is a consistency with them to discuss and record their feelings.
The expression of feelings sounds like a cry for help and a declaration of their plans.  And that they are depressed in manic phases.

This helps with profiling shooters and was right on the money with Cho.
An armed citizenry fly their colors, an unarmed citizenry wear their colors.


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Re: 10 Myths About School Shootings
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2007, 09:08:53 PM »

Really, it's not that much different from peopel who are willing to commit suicide, near as I can tell.  They wanna be helped, and they want positive attention, otherwise they wouldn't talk about it beforehand.  And if they don't get the help and attention they need, well...SHTF.

"Specialization is for insects."-Robert A. Heinlein


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Re: 10 Myths About School Shootings
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2008, 02:05:18 PM »

Worth re-reading



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Re: 10 Myths About School Shootings
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2008, 01:33:05 PM »

Seale Police Academy Director, vet cop and Police Ohio Trainer Ron Borsch’s advocacy of single-officer entries into active shooter sites touched off an unprecedented volume of responses to Force Science News. Other reactions, intensely pro or con, appeared on PoliceOne. Nearly 70% of readers who expressed an opinion to FSN agreed with Borsch’s solo-officer approach. Here’s a representative sampling of responses, edited for brevity and clarity. The writers are expressing their personal opinions and not necessarily the official views of their agencies.

Where does duty lie?
Back in “Da Day” when we saw police service as a vocation, not just a benefits package, and most of us had prior military service, we accepted that this was a contact sport, and it was our duty to protect the public. We also were more accepting of death and injury as part of the job.  Today it’s acceptable to many officers to say, “The most important thing is that I get home unharmed. As for the public, well, I’ll do what I can.”

I witnessed the change in thinking and tactics back in the late 80’s when I was working in a district on Chicago’s Far West Side. A captain at roll call and said, “Nobody in this district is worth you losing your life or job.” I was shocked and never forgot that roll call.

I have continued to ignore it because it is more important for me to protect the public. If I am a casualty in that effort, that would be unfortunate for me and my family, but this is the life I have chosen and my wife knew it when we married.

If my loved ones were in a building under siege while armed officers wearing bullet-resistant vests waited outside for SWAT or reinforcements, I would be OUTRAGED and when the smoke settled, lawsuits would follow.
                                                                            --Sgt. Rick Aztlan
                                                                               Mass Transit Unit, Chicago PD

Why stop at active-shooter calls for single-officer entries?

We train and expect our officers to return home at night. I too feel we are duty-bound for a quick response but not at the needless expense of our own lives by throwing proven tactics out the window.

If you expect a single patrolman to address the active-shooter threat alone then why wouldn’t you expect him to stop a domestic assault alone or an armed robber alone? Patrol is trained as it should be to wait for backup. Officers in our agency will be on scene in less than 2 minutes. They can be breaching the stronghold within 4 minutes.

I recommend that we provide our officers with more options such as basic SWAT tactics, vests, helmets and breaching tools. If the officers at Virginia Tech had breaching tools or even been through my active-shooter course they wouldn’t have taken 5 minutes to breach the building. Our agency is going a step further by having explosive breachers for the patrol division on the street!

I teach a Response to Active Shooter course that soon will be 40 hours long. Since Columbine, the IACP and others feel that providing a rifle and 8 hours of training will remedy the active-shooter problem. That’s merely a band aid. I fear this won’t change until our officers get slaughtered by an active shooter.

                                                                        --Sgt. Glenn French
                                                                        Sterling Heights (MI) PD

A fatal error that may cost officer lives

Borsch makes a fatal error by advocating that 1 officer rush in as a lone unit. SWAT operators train more than any road patrol deputy, yet we do not let a single officer enter a room alone for a second, let alone clear a room alone. Imagine that single officer now clearing a school alone for 2, 3, 4 minutes.

We would do a great disservice if we place all active shooters in the box Borsch has come up with. What may start as an active shooter, or what we may perceive as such, very well may be a terrorist act. Now you’ve just sent 1 officer to face an unknown number of assailants and bombs, booby traps and whatever else they have time to set up prior to actively shooting innocent people.

Just a few of the faults I found with his research:

• He says 98% of active killers act alone. But keep in mind the “ +1 rule” that is taught throughout all of our training.

• If a lone officer should go down, he has just provided the shooter with more weapons and rounds, thus making the situation worse.

• Keep in mind the average road patrol deputy’s likely hit ratio when on the move from more than 15 yards out, while being fired upon and with no backup.

• A lone officer is prone to being ambushed since he would not know exactly where the shooter is located, while the shooter is in known territory and has a pretty good idea of where to position himself for surprise.

In Borsch’s own research, he states that he has found no evidence of any LEO in the U.S. being wounded or killed in an active shooter incident, yet he advocates changing the standard practice, which has proven successful in keeping our fellow officers alive. By adopting Borsch’s suggestions, the officer body counts may very well begin.

                                                         --Cpl. Garry Schettini
                                                         Training Bureau, Palm Beach County (FL) SO

A head shot ASAP

Ron Borsch’s message is right on target. Far from advanced tactics, his stuff is common sense. Any chief, commissioner, sheriff, or other executive officer who would blink at single-officer entry needs to re-evaluate.

Many of us are fathers and mothers of children. My thought in responding to an active shooter at a school, mall, or anywhere else is hunting down and head-shooting this predator as quickly as humanly possible. If I do have the luxury of backup, they’d better keep up if they’re going to beat me to him!

                                                                     --Lt. Shannon West
                                                                     Kentucky State Police

Cowboy tactics

There is no need to enter a building alone when the next officer will likely be on scene within seconds. In an incident at a high school in my area over 40 agencies arrived within the first 20 minutes. With officers encouraged to enter alone, you will have numerous single officers moving through open corridors only to round a corner on another gun-wielding officer. The chances of being struck by friendly fire would probably be higher than being struck by the active shooter.

Borsch referred to solid tactics such as slicing the pie but doesn’t state that there are many intersections you may need to move through where you could not slice the pie without exposing yourself to another open area.

I do not believe you should ever enter a building in an active-shooter scenario with less than 2 officers and preferably 4 officers. It is just not tactically sound. We do not want to teach our officers to be cowboys. There are too many dead cowboys.

                                                          --Sgt. Peter Forth
                                                           Schenectady (NY) PD Training Unit

Armed classrooms?

I totally agree with single-officer response. But what stone is it engraved in that only cops should be armed to meet criminal violence? Train and arm a certain number of teachers. Translated: instant and effective response!
                                                             --Sgt. Jimmy Johnson
                                                             Dickson County (TN) Sheriff's Office

Empower the “victims”

A shooter could be foiled by empowered “victims” who have a better plan than to sit in a room and wait for either the cops or a murderer to come through the door. A retired Texas cop named Greg Crane and another officer have put together a program called “Response Options” to teach trainers who can teach civilians about ways to improve their chances to survive an active-shooter incident in schools and workplaces before the police arrive. Take a look at their website:

                                                           --Sgt. Richard A. Nester
                                                           Ohio State University Police—Wooster

Underestimating your opponent

Ron Borsch’s research says a number of things to me:

1. Active shooters are heavily armed, yet there appears to be a trend to send lightly armed police against offenders who are determined to kill and already have the mind-set that they’re going to rack up a body count before they go down.

2. Borsch says these offenders have little or no training. Yet the 2 shooters at Columbine had spent hours on “shoot ’em up” video games, one of the most cost effective and efficient training tools available today. These games get a person used to acquiring a sight picture, shooting and watching a target fall with all the associated blood that goes with it.

3. Borsch talks about active shooters typically folding quickly upon armed confrontation. But how much evidence is there that this trend will continue into the future? And that the persons involved will not attempt to gain further notoriety, which is what they’re really after in the first place, by taking out some half-trained cop?

It appears that Borsch has already stereotyped these offenders. History is resplendent with stories where someone has underestimated an opponent with dire results. If you take this attitude into your training it could eventually lead to your students winding up dead.

                                                             --Stephen Manning
                                                             Operational safety trainer—firearms
                                                             Sydney, Australia

“I’m torn between 2 options”

As a school resource officer of a 2,300 student suburban high school, what will I do in an active incident? I really don’t know because I’m torn between 2 options: 1) I can be a huge asset to responding officers because I know the layout of the school, potential hiding places, how to quickly and effectively clear and isolate an area, etc. and therefore should wait and take a leading role; or 2) go and engage the threat on my own since I will be potentially minutes ahead of other responders.

The reaction I get from most officers is that I’m crazy for thinking of engaging the threat alone. I tell them that I would be in a much better position than the average patrol officer due to my knowledge of the school and that I would have a hard time waiting, knowing that the shooter was killing students and I was in a position, at a minimum, to slow him/her down. I don't know that I could live with myself if I put my safety above the students’.

This is the main reason I choose to wear my uniform, vest, and all duty gear at my school. My only concern with going it alone is that I do not have access to a long gun. This is a matter I plan on addressing with my department administration.

                                                                    --Ofcr. Ben Johnson
                                                                    Blaine (MN) PD

SROs: Immediately move to the problem

Tradition is our administrative enemy. I can’t imagine being an SRO inside a school when shooting breaks out down the hall, then standing there doing nothing while waiting for backup. The SRO should immediately move to the problem and initiate intervention. If that’s OK (and it is), then certainly it’s OK for the first arriving patrol officer to enter and initiate intervention. The more voices there are in this regard, the sooner we’ll all get on board. Yet some agencies are still not on board even with a group entry by patrol officers.

                                                         --Cmdr. Kyle Sumpter
                                                         Primary lethal force instructor
                                                         Federal Way (WA) PD

“Beyond the average officer’s capabilities”

Among several reasons I believe single-officer tactics won’t work is that the overall readiness of most officers is pretty low. A lot are overweight and out of shape. Most don’t have the right mind-set when we go in service. High-risk concepts like one-person entry are above and beyond the average officer’s capabilities.

                                                                  --Sgt. Eddie Brock
                                                                  San Diego County (CA) SD

35-year perspective

I started in this business in 1973 when SWAT didn’t exist in my area, an officer with a rusty Remington 870 and a six-shooter was expected to take care of whatever happened, and a single-officer response was expected in any active-shooter situations. I still believe that an armed and willing officer has a better chance against an armed bad guy than most kids and unarmed citizens. If I can’t get ’em all, at least I can improve the odds.

                                                                         --Sgt. Gary Wilson
                                                                         Fort Worth (TX) PD

Tactics based on flawed assumptions

Ron Borsch is out of his tree. If he feels that law enforcement is not able to safely assemble a 3-4 officer contact team in an efficient and timely manner then maybe he should view it is a problem that law enforcement cannot solve or respond to. His tactics are based on what appear to be assumptions that a lone dedicated killer is not willing to fight and murder law enforcement. Hopefully none of the officers who were “trained” in these tactics will ever have to use them.

                                                            --Training Ofcr. Joe Villalobos
                                                             Racine (WI) PD

SWAT is 90 miles away

Our department, serving a small town of 3,800, has a grand total of 8 officers. Most of the time we have a maximum of 2 on the street, sometimes only 1. During the day, adding administrators, the total officers in the county who could respond from other agencies, including game wardens, swells to probably 20. The nearest full time SWAT team is 90 miles away. We have long ago determined that we would make entry and search out active shooters without delay.
                                                          --Chief W. E. Lattimore
                                                          Eagle Lake (TX) PD

“I once fought for 22 minutes before backup arrived”

My backup is usually 5-10 minutes away on a good day. I once fought with a subject for 22 minutes before backup arrived, despite alerting dispatch with an officer-in-distress call.
Our department policy encourages single-officer response in an active-shooter situation and my officers are trained and equipped to respond appropriately.

                                                                   --Chief Ken McLaughlin
                                                                   Ocean View (DE) PD

A case for greater firepower on the streets

I plan on using the article to confront the Chief to support my argument for greater fire power on the streets. I am concerned with sending an officer into a situation that he/she is not equipped to handle. Officers throughout the country should be trained on and issued patrol rifles (.223 M-4), shotguns and handguns. They need to understand the limitations of a 9mm, .40-cal. or .357 handgun when facing a subject who has a rifle.

FBI statistics for officer-involved shootings show that officers only hit 18% of what they shoot at in high stress situations. This is probably the result of an officer’s reliance on the handgun. I believe the sidearm is nothing more than a final line of defense in a deadly force situation involving an officer.

Our training and equipment must evolve to meet modern threats. Otherwise, we must face the fact that officer fatalities will rise.

                                                                        --Capt. Bruce Moreau
                                                                        Pawtucket (RI) PD

A word from the one at the heart of the controversy

Great responses! But for some, a reality check is needed.

With an active killer, we have a firm but unknown deadline. Time has forced us to choose: Either an officer places himself at risk, or the officer plays safe while children and/or other victims are left to the will of the murderer. There is NO time-out; the killing will go on without us. Average time, 8 minutes. The record is one innocent shot every 8 seconds! No one should need reminding that officer safety does NOT supercede citizen safety.

Some do not seem to be aware that more solo civilians (armed and unarmed) have successfully aborted rapid mass-murder than have the police. The only successful aborts by police have been SOLO officers, 2-officers, and (pre-Columbine) 3 officers. The theory of an organized multiple-man formation has yet to make its mark in reality.

                                                           --Ron Borsch
                                                             SEALE Academy
                                                             Bedford, OH