By: Saraana Jamraj
At Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where a mass shooter killed 17 people, there is a sense of urgency to prevent future violence.
This past week, the Secret Service responded in their latest report, which analyzes the factors that lead to the attacks after studying 41 incidences of attacks in K-12 schools from 2008 to 2017.
Parkland parent Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was one of the victims, attended the announcement held by the Secret Service. He, along with Tony Montalto, also of Parkland, and Max Schachter of Coral Springs, were invited to join the nation-wide rollout tour of the findings.
Petty acknowledged that while the report is somewhat similar to other findings, it introduces a new wealth of knowledge as it incorporated more recent attacks and additional insights from social media.
The report examined the backgrounds of the attackers, the circumstances surrounding their attacks, their methods of attack, and set out to find what they all had in common.
From those studies, the Secret Service identified several key findings:
There is no profile of a student attacker, nor a profile for the type of school that is targeted. They also did not have a single motive, but often multiple reasons, most commonly involving grievances with classmates, including being bullied.
There were specific findings that were relatively uniform among the incidences: All of the attackers experienced social stressors involving their platonic and romantic relationships. Nearly all experience troubled lives at home, and most had a history of disciplinary action, including contact with law enforcement. They often exhibited troubling behavior and elicited concern from others.
Almost all of the attackers communicated their intent to attack before they did it. And, including the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, most attackers used guns to carry out their violence.
After the February 14, 2018 massacre, parents expressed outrage at how it could have been prevented—and this study often confirms and repeats what they have been saying.
“In many instances, [the study] confirms previous research into school attacks. In some very important ways, this report breaks new ground,” said Petty, who pointed out the troubled home lives many of the attacker’s face, and urged schools to become more aware of students’ situations, and highlighted the fact that most guns used were taken from the home.
Most importantly, he said, this report proves that attacks can be prevented through behavioral assessment. The National Threat Assessment Center, who presented the report, agreed.
“School safety is our collective responsibility as a nation, and we must remain one step ahead of tragedy,” said Dr. Lina Alathari, Chief of the National Threat Assessment Center.
Alathari said the Secret Service is uniquely positioned to equip schools with comprehensive intelligence in the development of prevention and threat assessment program.
They intend to use this information for research, training, consultation, and information sharing on threat assessment as part of a systematic approach to better identify individuals who exhibit threatening or concerning behaviors and to enhance prevention efforts.
The National Threat Assessment Center is presenting the report in the coming weeks to stakeholders, administrators, and law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.
Petty, Montalto, and Schachter, will join them, and Petty urges parents and administrators to read the report and learn from it.
“As parents, we have a powerful voice, and we should accept nothing less than safe schools for our children. They deserve to come home,” said Petty.
Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.
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