Deadly Weapons Attacks and Copycat Behavior

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copycat threatAs with every other incident of school violence we have observed, and following the deadly shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, authorities have been alerted to a flood of copycat threats. More than a dozen people – many of them teenage students, have been arrested across the country.

A 23-year-old man was taken into custody in Wisconsin after someone sent “an electronic message” to the FBI threatening to “shoot up the school,” according to an NBC affiliate. That threat did not name a specific school.

The Broward County sheriff’s office arrested a 13-year-old girl on Tuesday Feb 21, after she posted on Instagram about wanting to carry out an attack at her middle school this week. The middle school, Central Charter School, is just 10 miles away from Stoneman Douglas and part of the same district, Broward County Public Schools.

In Arizona, a chat message share via social media threatened the same to Rio Rancho High.

Firestorm Co-founder Harry Rhulen cautions on Copycat activity:

Something that has been firmly documented over a lengthy period of time is that any time there is a high profile event, featured by the media, such as a shooting or a bombing, the potential for copycat violence is high.

Copycat violence does not have to take the exact same form as the reported event. Mixed in with our general population are a number of people who for one reason or another are on the fence about committing some type of violent act. Often, these people have exhibited behavioral warning signs, but have not acted out.

It is essential, that all school administrators and staff be on notice that recent school violence has the potential to spawn violence in their school.

For Firestorm Organizations that have implemented BERTHA: All members of the Behavioral Management Team should review the individuals captured in the school’s central repository with an eye towards those who might be triggered by such an event.

Teachers and staff should be placed on notice of any individuals who might need additional support. Furthermore, overall vigilance should be stepped up and students should be reminded that anonymous reporting is available and encouraged.

It is essential that all schools pay particular attention to their social media monitoring process. This process is essential to identifying those students who have never exhibited behaviors of concern, but who may now be agitated by the current situation.

Your school’s Behavioral Risk and Threat Assessment process should be implemented. The Behavioral Management Team should be prepared to meet on a more frequent basis than the one week interval recommended in the plan. Counseling resources should be available if the team feels there is a need.

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