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Preventing, Preparing for Critical Incidents in Schools

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2009
5 pages
Publication Series
This article reports on a 2002 study by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education (funded partly by the National Institute of Justice) that explored the behavior of student-attackers in 37 school incidents, so as to develop information that could help communities prevent such attacks.
In 95 percent of the cases, the attacker had engaged in premeditated planning for the attack, and most had access to and had used weapons prior to the incidents. More than two-thirds of the student attackers obtained the guns used in the attack from their own home or that of a relative. Prior to the incident, 93 percent of the attackers behaved in a way that caused others concern or indicated a need for help. Most of the attackers had told a friend, schoolmate, or sibling about his plan before the incident. Seventy-one percent of the attackers felt bullied, threatened, or attacked by others at school, and 24 percent had a known history of drug/alcohol abuse. Given the findings of this study, this article also reports on the status of schools’ preparation for such attacks. A national survey of more than 750 school-based police officers found that approximately half of the officers reported that emergency plans for their schools were inadequate, and approximately 66 percent indicated that their schools’ emergency plans were not practiced regularly. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has developed tools and training programs for schools and school districts that focus on the resolution of conflict, the management of critical incidents, and the prevention of school violence. Some of these NIJ resources are briefly described. 9 notes

Date Published: March 1, 2009