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School Shooting Preparedness Blog Series, Part 2

School Shooting Preparedness Blog Series, Part 2 hero image
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We were joined by crisis response expert and Principal of Behavioral Science Applications, Steven Crimando, who discussed up-to-date crisis management and violence protection strategies for teachers and students to mitigate and prevent school shooting scenarios. Our expert answers a series of questions about preventing school shootings in our blog series, School Shooting Preparedness. And don’t miss our upcoming webinar on Thursday, July 26th at 2pm ET, Protecting Your Schools from Active Shooter IncidentsMiss part 1 of our blog series? Read it here!

School shootings are gaining awareness around the country, and schools everywhere are taking action to prevent them. In fact, in 2016, the CDC found nearly 90 percent of public schools had a written plan for responding to school shootings, and 70 percent of those schools had drilled students on the plan. That’s great news, but how can schools ensure their active shooter preparedness plans are as effective as possible?

You mention turning bystanders to upstanders, but there are reasons students may decline to report a potential threat. What are the barriers and how can they be addressed?

Creating an upstander culture or possibly and upstander program is one of the most important actions schools can take to prevent a school shooting. A landmark school  shooting study published in 2002, “The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States”, developed in partnership between the Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education found that Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely are sudden, impulsive acts, and that prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack. In fact, in 81% of school shootings in 1 other person knew of the impending attack, and 93% were peers of the perpetrators, typically friends, schoolmates or siblings.[i] So, the bottom line is that other people know when someone is on the pathway to violence. The challenge then is how to leverage that information to prevent an attack.

The term “upstander” was first used to describe those who spoke out against genocide, and later in schools as an anti-bullying strategy.[ii] It is an extension of the “see something, say something” concept. Students are more likely to be the first to know of trouble, but often are unsure or reluctant to come forward. The barriers to reporting concerns include the:

  • potential for ridicule
  • potential for reprisal either from the person of concern or from the organization
  • appearance of being a “snitch”
  • Potential of not being taken seriously
  • Uncertainty about the seriousness of the information or situation
  • Mistrust of confidentiality or mistrust of the system to handle the situation appropriately
  • Desire to remain uninvolved in the affairs of others

Transforming bystanders into upstanders is a must. The guidance, “Making Prevention a Reality” published by the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit in 2017 provides a good roadmap for converting bystanders to upstanders.[iii] The key elements defined in the guidance were:

  1. Optimizing opportunities for identification: Whether on social media posts, direct observation, or just overhearing a disturbing comment in the hallway, students and others in an at-risk person’s life, must know what signs and signals to look out for, even if they seem small or unimportant.
  2. Reporting and a reporting mechanism: If a student, family or community member becomes aware of behavior and/or communication of concern, they must have a clear idea of how to report information and what will happen next.

Creating a culture of shared responsibility: One thing that separates upstanders from bystanders is their  have a positive emotional connection to the school and staff, to their workplace, or to the larger community.


Join us on Thursday, July 26th at 2pm ET to hear more from our expert on the topic during our webinar, Protecting Your Schools from Active Shooter Incidents.