Prior Knowledge of Potential School-Based Violence: Information Students Learn May Prevent a Targeted Attack   [open pdf - 514KB]

"In the wake of several high-profile shootings at schools in the United States, most notably the shootings that occurred at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, the United States Secret Service (Secret Service) and the United States Department of Education (ED) embarked on a collaborative endeavor to study incidents of planned (or targeted) violence in our nation's schools. Initiated in 1999, the study, termed the Safe School Initiative (SSI), examined several issues, most notably whether past school-based attacks were planned, and what could be done to prevent future attacks. The SSI employed a method similar to an earlier Secret Service study, the Exceptional Case Study Project (ECSP), that examined targeted attacks on public officials and public figures (Fein & Vossekuil, 1999). […] As with the ECSP, the SSI employed an operational focus to assist those involved with school safety to improve prevention efforts by increasing knowledge of targeted violence in schools. By studying past incidents of targeted violence in schools, the Secret Service and ED examined whether pre-attack behaviors of perpetrators could be identified to prevent future attacks. […] The SSI findings highlight that in most targeted school-based attacks, individuals, referred to as bystanders in this report, had some type of advanced knowledge about planned school violence. Despite this advanced knowledge, the attacks still occurred. This study aimed to further the prevention of targeted school-based attacks by exploring how students with prior knowledge of attacks made decisions regarding what steps, if any, to take after learning the information. The study sought to identify what might be done to encourage more students to share information they learn about potential targeted school-based violence with one or more adults."

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Listed on June 4, 2008 [Critical Releases]