“IF NOT ME, THEN WHO?”
- by Paul
Beslan, Russia September 1-3, 2004.
One of the most horrific acts of School Violence seen by the world
in modern times:
A trained group of Chechen separatists, armed with explosives
and other weapons took control of the Beslan School corralling
over 1,000 children and adults. This act of Terrorism cost the
lives of more than 300 children and left countless secondary victims
and others living with the emotional memory.
Over the three days of the stand-off people were tortured, murdered
and raped. They were deprived of food and because of the oppressive
heat, drank their own urine to quench their insatiable thirst.
When an explosive device unintentionally detonated, the Terrorists
believed an assault had taken place. They began killing more of
their captives. Russian Special Forces took intervening action
and for hours, engaged in a firefight that displayed the untold
sacrifices and forfeiture of Warrior lives to save as many of the
children as possible.
Living the Spetsnaz credo,“If not me, then who?”,
some forfeited their life.
Thanks to John Giduck (www.antiterrorism.org) we have as factual
an account of this tragedy as can be publicly released.
Platte Canyon High School, Bailey, Colorado, September 28, 2006.
Duane Morrison, 53 years of age, enters Platte
Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado. Dressed in a hooded sweat-shirt
he proceeds through the school with purpose. An alert student goes
to the administrative office and warns of this individual who “does
not seem like he belongs here”. Upon entering Room 206 he
displays a handgun and orders all males to exit the room. When
one male refuses, he points the weapons in his direction and states
he will kill him if he refuses. After the male departs, the female
teacher refuses to leave when instructed to do so. Morrison fires
a shot into the ceiling to demonstrate his resolve. The female
teacher departs and rushes to alert the administrative office.
Law enforcement responders arrive within minutes only to be confronted
by Morrison using several of the female students as human shields.
A stand-off begins as additional resources begin to arrive. In
total, nearly 300 personnel will be on scene to aid the Park County
Over the next four hours, he will sexually assault a number of
the six, 16 and 17 year old hostages. As negotiations play out,
four of the girls will be released. Morrison will also claim he
has explosives with him and he will detect the sounds of special
units trying to obtain a tactical advantage and intelligence.
As a deadline approaches and a rescue-entry plan is made the officers
outside of the room report screams coming from the remaining females.
The rescue-entry order is given and multiple entries occur simultaneously.
During the ensuing exchange of fire Morrison fatally wounds seventeen
year old Emily Keyes before he is killed by law enforcement.
A community is experiencing a tragedy. The students, faculty and
support staffs are in shock. The assembled parents and loved ones
are both relieved and in mourning.
Midland, Michigan March 7, 2007
She had been dropped off at school that morning by her mother
who was still in the parking area as her 17 year old daughter entered
the school. Her 17 year old boyfriend was not allowed to enter
the school. As he tried to do so, he was turned away by alert school
Outside, in the parking lot, he would call her cell phone convincing
her to exit the safety of the school. As she approached, her mother
would watch in bewilderment. The teen would pull a handgun from
his backpack, shooting the girl four times before taking his own
life. Her mother would make a valiant intervention effort to save
her daughters life by driving her car between the two. The female
victim would survive.
Foss High School, Tacoma, Washington, January 3, 2007
Shortly after returning to school from Christmas break a seventeen
year old is shot in the hallway.
Weston, Wisconsin September 29, 2006
A disgruntled young 15 year old would come into the Weston High
School armed with a shotgun. Realizing the danger to the student
body, Principal John Klang puts his life at risk to intervene.
As he tried to disarm the 15 year old, he would be killed by the
shotgun blast. Others would overpower and disarmed him prior to
the law enforcement response.
Tampa, Florida, May 21, 2006
Two Saudi men board a school bus, raising suspicion and response
by various law enforcement authorities including the FBI.
Another time, in Hoboken New Jersey, a 48 year old school administrator
is killed by a man who mistakenly believed his wife was having
an affair with him.
These are only a few illustrations of the
more than four-hundred deaths which have occurred in schools
in the United States and
school related Terrorism occurring in other countries. While these
domestic incidents are a statistically snapshot of events recorded
by the National School Safety Center (www.nssc1.org) since 1992,
they illustrate a lethal threat that continues to face us. Truly
the likelihood of such an event is minimal but the consequences
are catastrophic. Who wants to be the School Administrator, law
enforcement head or government official that has to acknowledge, “It
Who are these persons who take lives in and around our schools?
There have been events that have involved adults, juveniles, males
and females. Some have been staff, others have been community members.
Some have been students and some have been gang members. The most
notorious attackers have been connected with the targeted school
and frequently are students.
Examining the attacker information we find
the predominant student characteristic to be a white male, 14-17
years of age, family living
above the poverty line, suburban school district. He is often of
low self-esteem, has a close circle of friends whom he narcissistically
manipulates to enhance his ego and aid him in bringing his aggressive
plans to fruition. He is likely not to be involved in “team” functions
(i.e.: sports; band) or community volunteer activities. He has
likely experienced bullying and becomes resentful of the “haves”…have
stuff and have attention.
The victims of such carnage are both male and female. Pertaining
to student victims, we find no gender predominance. Frequently,
Administrators (principals, vice-principals) are either targeted
or attempt to intervene. When this occurs, the predominant victim
gender is male. Faculty also becomes subjected to the violence
of these offenders. The predominant faculty gender is female.
There is statistical gender predominance in school administration
and faculty. This may account for some of the victim data. Also
a phenomenon associated with nurturing and intervention may place
faculty at greater risk as they take action to diffuse an event.
Weapons can be configured from anything. The
school attacker may utilize an edged weapon, blunt object or
other instrument. However,
he is most likely to utilize a firearm - their preference being
a handgun or a shotgun. The shotgun of choice is a 12 gauge pump-action
model. Explosives may be used as a threat but are rarely a reality…at
Human behavior is often predictable and based
on learned outcomes resulting from actions taken. Some have dubbed
profiling” others have called it invasions of privacy. But
patterns of action are often the result of positive stimuli (rewards)
that foster repeat behavior or reinforcement of motivation to enhance
the behavior (“pushing the envelope”). It can have
a positive or negative impact on the affected individuals in that
The FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S.
Department of Education have taken a proactive step in trying
to identify the potential
school attacker. There are a number of behavioral characteristics
common among offenders but patterns are not sufficient to determine
The research also indicates a number of myths exist pertaining
to those who would carry out such acts. The uninformed will often
miss indicators or signs. In most of the attacks, there have been
plans and others have been aware of pending overt acts. In western
culture there exists a society where entertainment sources script
us to believe forensic evidence solves homicides in an hour and
special weapons abound to neutralize threats in minutes. These
school violence events rarely last longer than fifteen minutes
once they begin. It is more likely a School Resource Officer (SRO)
or the first available law enforcement officers are going to be
engaging the threats.
When we are trained and aware, proactive intervening
action can be a significant step in reducing the casualties.
Establish a survival
philosophy to enhance your capability to assess the level of threat
and what defensive actions are required. Get serious about emergency
planning. Follow the guidelines of multi-hazard crisis plans promulgated
by the U.S. Department of Education. Train like it is for real
because it just might be someday. Don’t let yourself be an
ostrich and say it will not happen here. It has happened more than
four-hundred times in fifteen years. Stay current and revise or
update plans and protocols.
How physically secure is your facility? Because planning is usually
involved, overt deterrent means can send a message to the attacker
that success may not be possible. Features such as keeping doors
locked, except through limited entry points. Any open access area
must be monitored by someone. That individual needs the authority
to mandate identification and compliance with movement within.
Without a means to announce an alarm for non-compliance, their
responsibility is usurped. These entry points will be further enhanced
if aided by electronic monitoring. Even if an intruder fails to
comply with access controls, the recorded entry image will aid
greatly in verifying the legitimacy of that persons access.
Other physical features will aid emergency
responders as well. In conjunction with proper authority develop
a numbering system
for doors, windows, basement’s and roof portals. Jointly
examine the dynamics of after hour’s events, such as social
functions and sporting events. Pre-designate staging areas and
Evacuation and assembly areas are frequently
assigned based on convenience more than crisis considerations.
If your plan has not
taken into consideration the differences between a fire event,
hazardous device event, armed intruder event or weather event then
your planning may not be adequate. It is difficult to establish
multiple evacuation/assembly protocols so partner up with your
appropriate emergency responder. You may be able to establish one
or two protocols that will meet most of your crisis reasons to
evacuate. Remember, various factors effect who may be executing
your evacuation signal. So, use the K.I.S.S. principle…Keep
It Short and Simple.
Lastly we have to build confidence sufficient to allow for flexibility.
These situations do change. They are dynamic. A plan is the predicted
to be the most effective way to address the crisis but, an unknown
may be thrown into the mix. People need to realize that and feel
confident enough that they can make a decision and have the commitment
to act upon that.
If we have believe this crisis can come to
our school, then we will desire to be prepared. If we desire
to be prepared, we will
train and learn effective strategies to intervene or mitigate the
event. So when we train and learn, we will contribute to reducing
the likelihood that such events happen where we are. Because, “If
not me, then who.”