Friday, March 25, 2005

Predicting Dates of Future Shootings and Prevention

Predicting when the Red Lake school shooting would occur this year was relatively easy when one becomes attuned to the copycat effect.

So, now, when should we look for the next round of shootings? And can educators and law enforcement professionals do anything to be on the lookout and prevent them?

First of all, I do sense the wall-to-wall coverage of the Red Lake shooting may trigger vulnerable suicidal boys with guns who over-identify with Jeff Weise. Will the next one be another neo-Nazi who uses a gun or someone that hates their math class? I'm not a psychic but all the incidators are that a suicidal youth who "wants to take some people with him" could repeat this awful tragedy in the next month. There is a three/four-day, seven-day, and one-month media cycle that are behind these copycats.

So, if we get through next Monday, we might get beyond this current short-term window. But then in a month, we are going to be entering an extremely dangerous time. The whole week from April 18 through April 26 will be key. You have dates that are well-known twilight ones, extremely high priorities on the neo-Nazi-suicidal-school-shooter calendar, including April 19 (Waco & Oklahoma bombing anniversaries), April 20 (Hitler's birthday, Columbine anniversary), April 21 (Red Lake, MN's one-month anniversary), April 24 (Edinboro, PA school shooting anniversary), and April 26 (Rudolf Hess's birthday, Erfurt, Germany school shooting anniversary). Considering the multiple variables related to these dates, combined with when most suicides occur (Mondays), and the anniversaries at work here, I would say that the Mondays of April 18 or April 25, could be the dates to most worry about. As schools will be tuned into April 19-20, the dissemination of the other key dates should happen and officials should not let their guards down before or after these oft-mentioned dates. School shootings are not a remembrance of Columbine, and have more to do with rage, hate, and those feelings, for example, projected via neo-Nazi events or local specific death anniversaries, points on the calendar that have meaning to the shooters, personally.

What should people do? The hidden secret in preventing a school shooter is to have a broad-based suicide prevention program in place that identifies and takes seriously the link between suicidal males and school shooters. The other prevention means you hear on the media - heavy security at school via armed guards, via unarmed guards, via friendly school resource officers, metal detactors - are important, of course. But by the time student is thrown out or disassociated from his school, it is too late and he comes back to kill. A broad, coordinated suicide prevention and mental health approach needs to be given in conjunction with a safe school environment, and one in which students save lives through telling adults. Students need to be able to tell adults about their fears and what they have heard without thinking they will be "getting" a peer in trouble. The reinforcement of listening/telling skills must happen, so these front-line students can see that the youth they identify are given help, not punished.

It is a complex issue that calls for anything but simple answers.

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