«UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WASHINGTON, D. C. May 2002 THE FINAL REPORT AND FINDINGS OF THE SAFE SCHOOL ...»
THE FINAL REPORT AND
FINDINGS OF THE
THE PREVENTION OF
SCHOOL ATTACKS IN
THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE AND
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONWASHINGTON, D. C.
THE FINAL REPORT AND FINDINGS
OF THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE:
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF
SCHOOL ATTACKS IN THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICEAND
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONby Bryan Vossekuil Director National Violence Prevention and Study Center Robert A. Fein, Ph.D.
Director National Violence Prevention and Study Center Marisa Reddy, Ph.D.
Chief Research Psychologist and Research Coordinator National Threat Assessment Center U.S. Secret Service Randy Borum, Psy.D.
Associate Professor University of South Florida William Modzeleski Director Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program U.S. Department of Education Washington, D. C.
May 2002 i
SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE FINAL REPORT
JOINT MESSAGE FROM THE SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
EDUCATION, AND THE DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICELittleton, Colorado; Springfield, Oregon; West Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas. These communities have become familiar to many Americans as the locations where school shootings have occurred in recent years. School shootings are a rare, but significant, component of school violence in America. It is clear that other kinds of problems are far more common than the targeted attacks that have taken place in schools across this country. However, each school-based attack has had a tremendous and lasting effect on the school in which it occurred, the surrounding community, and the nation as a whole. In the aftermath of these tragic events, educators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, parents, and others have asked: "Could we have known that these attacks were being planned?" and, "What can be done to prevent future attacks from occurring?" In June 1999, following the attack at Columbine High School, our two agencies--the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education--launched a collaborative effort to begin to answer these questions. The result was the Safe School Initiative, an extensive examination of 37 incidents of targeted school shootings and school attacks that have occurred in the United States beginning with the earliest identified incident in 1974 through June 2000. The focus of the Safe School Initiative was on examining the thinking, planning, and other behaviors engaged in by students who carried out school attacks. Particular attention was given to identifying pre-attack behaviors and communications that might be detectable--or "knowable"--and could help in preventing some future attacks.
PREFACEThe Safe School Initiative was implemented through the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center and the Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program. The Initiative drew from the Secret Service’s experience in studying and preventing assassination and other types of targeted violence and the Department of Education’s expertise in helping schools facilitate learning through the creation of safe environments for students, faculty, and staff.
This document, the Safe School Initiative’s final report, details how our two agencies studied school-based attacks and what we found. Some of the findings may surprise you. It is clear that there is no simple explanation as to why these attacks have occurred. Nor is there a simple solution to stop this problem. But the findings of the Safe School Initiative do suggest that some future attacks may be preventable, if those responsible for safety in schools know what questions to ask and where to uncover information that may help with efforts to intervene before a school attack can occur.
Since it began in June 1999, our partnership has been a tremendous asset to each of our respective agencies and vital to the success of this study. It is our hope that the information we present in this final report is useful to those of you on the front lines of this problem–the administrators, educators, law enforcement officials, and others with protective responsibilities in schools–and to anyone concerned with children’s safety. We encourage all of you in your ef forts to keep our nation’s children safe in school and hope this report helps you in those efforts.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThe U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education are grateful to many agencies and individuals for their assistance in planning and carrying out the Safe School Initiative. First and foremost, the authors of this report owe a debt of gratitude to the representatives of the numerous law enforcement and criminal justice agencies that permitted Secret Service personnel to review investigative files on the school attacks in their respective communities; provided other key information and materials about these attacks; and assisted and supported Secret Service personnel in seeking permission to interview 10 attackers. Moreover, the authors are grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice for providing critical financial support that helped make the study possible.
In addition, Secret Service and Department of Education personnel benefited substantially from the contributions of several law enforcement, behavioral science and mental health professionals whose collective experience and expertise helped to inform the development of the project plan and research design. In alphabetical order, these individuals are: Gerardo Blue, Frederick Calhoun, Charles Ewing, Michael Gelles, Dennis McCarthy, Edward Mulvey, William Pollack, Larry Porte, Pam Robbins, Raymond Smyth, Sara Strizzi and Andrew Vita.
This project would not have been possible without the support and guidance that the authors received from se veral key officials and personnel at the Department of Education and the Secret Service. Absent the expertise and insights of these individuals, the Secret Service’s experience in researching and preventing targeted violence could not have been translated into a useful study of targeted school iv
ACKNOWLEDGMENTSviolence. At the Department of Education, these individuals are: Secretary of Education Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Connie Deshpande. Secret Service of ficials who provided guidance and support for this project are: Director Brian Stafford, Assistant Director Terry Samway, Deputy Assistant Directors Bob Byers and Tom Riopelle, Special Agent in Charge George Luczko and Resident Agent in Charge John Berglund. Special thanks are extended to Social Science Research Specialist Karissa Kumm who assisted with project data collection and was instrumental in organizing information from the Safe School Initiative kick-off meeting. Our thanks go also to Dean Terry, Michael Gelles and Marty Allen for providing extensive assistance with project data collection.
The authors extend special thanks to Assistant Director Barbara Riggs, Office of Protective Research, U.S. Secret Service, for her support of the Safe School Initiative and the National Threat Assessment Center.
The authors wish to thank Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matt Doherty, Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge Cindy Rubendall and Special Agent Ignacio Zamora for giving generously of their time in reviewing earlier drafts of this document, and former Special Agent Nancy Fogarty, Social Science Research Specialists Derricka Dean and Megan Williams and interns Marissa Savastana, Becca Norwick and Colleen Spokis for their invaluable assistance with data collection, data entry and project management.
Finally, the Secret Service and the Department of Education gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Paul Kelly and Gwen Holden of the Nauset Group, whose insightful observations and comments helped to shape the Final Report. Special thanks go out to Gwen Holden, who edited the Final Report.
Littleton, Colorado; Springfield, Oregon; West Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas. These communities have become familiar to many Americans as among the locations of those schools where shootings have occurred nationwide in recent years. In the aftermath of these tragic events, educators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals and parents have pressed for answers to two central questions: "Could we have known that these attacks were being planned?" and, if so, "What could we have done to prevent these attacks from occurring?"
This publication, The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative:
Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States, is a recent product of an ongoing collaboration between the U. S. Secret Service and the U. S.
Department of Education to begin to answer these questions.1 It is the culmination of an extensive examination of 37 incidents of targeted school violence that occurred in the United States from December 1974 through May 2000. 2
Following the attack at Columbine High School in April 1999, the Secret Service and the Department of Education initiated, in June 1999, a study of the thinking, planning and other pre-attack behaviors engaged in by attackers who carried out school shootings. That study, the Safe School Initiative, was pursued under a partnership between the Secret Service and the Department of Education, and implemented through the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center and the Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program. In its execution, the Safe School Initiative drew from the Secr et Service’s experience in studying and preventing targeted violence and from the Department of Education’s expertise in helping schools facilitate learning through the creation of safe environments for students, faculty and staff.
The objective of the Safe School Initiative was to attempt to identify information that could be obtainable, or "knowable," prior to an attack. That information would then be analyzed and evaluated to produce a factual, accurate knowledge base on targeted school attacks. This knowledge could be used to help communities across the country to formulate policies and strategies aimed at preventing school-based attacks.
Key features of the Safe School Initiative were its focus on "targeted" school violence and its adaptation of earlier Secret Service research on assassination for its examination of incidents of school-based attacks.
This report is an update and expansion of the earlier Interim Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools, which was released in October 2000. This Final Report supercedes the Interim Report and should be used and referenced in place of the Interim Report.
See Section I, "INTRODUCTION: THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE, Methodology," for a discussion of the approach used by the Secret Service to identify incidents of school-based attacks.
SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE FINAL REPORTThe Safe School Initiative examined incidents of "targeted violence" in school settings–school shootings and other school-based attacks where the school was deliberately selected as the location for the attack and was not simply a random site of opportunity. The term "targeted violence" evolved from the Secret Service’s fiveyear study of the behavior of individuals who have carried out, or attempted, lethal attacks on public of ficials or prominent individuals. That study, the Secret Service’s Exceptional Case Study Project (ECSP), was initiated in 1992 under funding provided by the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice.
The focus of the ECSP study was an operational analysis of the thinking and behavior of those who have assassinated, attacked or tried to attack a national public official or public figure in the United States since 1949. The ECSP defined "targeted violence" as any incident of violence where a known or knowable attacker selects a particular target prior to their violent attack.3 The purpose of the ECSP was to generate a better understanding of attacks against public officials that, in turn, would help Secret Service agents in their investigations of threats toward the president and others they protect and in the prevention of harm to these protected officials.4 The ECSP sought to identify what information might be knowable prior to an attack and to better enable intervention before an attack occurred. Findings from the ECSP helped to dispel several myths and misconceptions about assassination.
In addition to the ECSP’s particular focus on incidents involving attacks on public officials and prominent individuals, other types of violence in which a victim is targeted specifically include assassinations, stalking, some forms of domestic violence, some types of workplace violence, and some types of school violence. In the case of targeted school violence, the target may be a specific individual, such as a particular classmate or teacher, or a group or category of individuals, such as "jocks" or "geeks." The target may even be the school itself.
The findings of the ECSP also led to the Secret Service’s development of a more thorough and focused process for conducting threat assessment investigations. As part of its mission, the Secret Service is responsible for protecting the president and vice president of the United States and their families and certain national and Fein, R., Vossekuil, B., & Holden, G. (1995). Threat assessment: An approach to prevent targeted violence. National Institute of Justice: Research in Action, 1-7.