Safe School Initiative: implications for the prevention of schools attacks in the United States


JOINT MESSAGE FROM THE SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AND THE DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE
Littleton, 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.
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