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Stay vigilant over deadly school shootings: Editorial

Posted 8/21/19

It’s been more than 20 years since the Columbine High School shooting, where two seniors murdered 12 students and one teacher in Colorado.

It was a horrific day in U.S. history, on April …

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Stay vigilant over deadly school shootings: Editorial


It’s been more than 20 years since the Columbine High School shooting, where two seniors murdered 12 students and one teacher in Colorado.

It was a horrific day in U.S. history, on April 20, 1999. But we have seen other similar scenes. There have been at least 11 other deadly mass school shootings since then.

Law enforcement and school officials across the country know much more about such tragedies than they did before Columbine. But it still hasn’t prevented them from happening.

Communication must continue, however, so it was a positive step that teachers and school officials from across the 10th Congressional District gathered at Middletown Area High School on Aug. 6 to learn how to identify concerning student behavior and know if a student posed a threat.

What should educators look for?

“I would say anything that somebody would consider concerning whether it’s posts online, online communications, Facebook posts, writings, assignments that are turned in with a specific theme that may be disturbing. It really could be anything,” James Henry, special agent in charge of the Secret Service Philadelphia Field Office, told us in an interview.

It might be nothing, Henry said, but the thought of “see something, say something” really does apply.

The attendees were trained by a member of the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center. Officials from 50 public and private school districts attended, including about 18 officials from Middletown, from the five schools and central district office. The participating Middletown staff included principals, counselors, teachers, social workers and psychologists.

Media were not allowed in the presentation, but a press release from the office of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (he helped organize the event) said the presentations included threat assessment training, tools to identify potential threats and student behaviors of concern, methods to investigate and gather background/behavior on troubled students, assessment techniques on how to know if a student poses a threat, risk-management strategies and intervention techniques and steps to help children in need before they become desperate or violent.

Alarming, isn’t it? It’s also very frightening but heartening that actions are being taken.

Henry raised a sobering point: There’s no way to judge if this type of training was effective in curtailing violence because they don’t know what they might have prevented.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, Phoenix Contact officials reached out to the district to provide financial support for any safety and security improvements. Phoenix Contact funded a risk and vulnerability assessment last August.

What a great benefit for the community, for a business to offer such support to schools.

“We’ve got to be focusing on what are we doing as a school, as a school district, as a society to work on how do we determine who are the people who need help and what are we doing to help these people. I truly believe that some of this can be prevented if people were to seek help when they need help. Because if people have that amount of anger and rage inside of them, someone has to see that, and what are we doing to intervene for these people before something terrible happens,” Middletown Area School District Superintendent Lori Suski said.

Let’s set aside the fight over gun rights for a moment when it comes to this discussion, although we realize that is difficult for many people to do.

Go back to what Henry said: “See something, say something.”

Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you have children and you are concerned about them or their friends, find the proper way to convey your concerns to people in authority.

We will never stop all school shootings, but we must stay vigilant to lessen their number. The responsibility lies not just with school officials and parents but with all of us.