We Must Act – Active Shooter Injures Two Classmates at Maryland High School
Less than five weeks after the tragedy that unfolded in Parkland, Florida, another school deployed their active shooter response plan when a student opened fire in a hallway before 8 a.m. on March 20.
A 17-year-old student shot and critically wounded two fellow students at a Maryland high school on Tuesday morning before dying after exchanging gunfire with a campus security officer, the county sheriff [Timothy Cameron] said…Cameron said investigators would determine whether the shooter died of a wound from the school resource officer’s gun or in some other way.
The shooting at Great Mills High School (GMHS) in Maryland comes a few weeks after a threat was surfaced on the social messaging app, Snapchat. In response to the threat, GMHS Principal, Dr. Jake Heibel released this statement to parents on February 21st :
Good Morning Great Mills High School Parent/Guardian,
Yesterday we received a report that a student in the hallway during transitions overheard two students mention “shooting” and “school”. We interviewed the student with our SRO, viewed video, interviewed other students, and contacted central office. The threat was not substantiated. Late last night, additional information was circulated quite extensively on social media about a potential threat at school today. Law enforcement was contacted and an investigation was conducted, which included interviews with students and parents to determine the validity of the potential threat. The threat to Great Mills High School has not been validated at this time. However, we will have additional security today and we will continue to investigate the source of the postings. Also, continue your vigilance and alert us to any information you may encounter. If you see something, say something.
Tomorrow, students will have the opportunity to discuss school safety during One Lunch. I am very proud of our students and appreciate their vigilance and willingness to notify adults if they see something that concerns them.
Thank you and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Dr. Jake Heibel
Investigations continue to determine if the threat and shooting are related and the relationship between the shooter and victims.
“It Won’t Happen Here” Mentality
Often, school boards and superintendents ask “How do we stop the madness?” In years past it was easy enough for a board to take the position that it has never happened here, and therefore it never will. Denial is NOT a strategy and cannot exist in the school community any longer. In a press conference following the GMHS shooting, Dr. James Smith of the St. Mary’s School District (that includes GMHS) reiterated that mentality must change by stating:
“If you don’t think this can’t happen at your school, you are sadly mistaken.“
Prevention is Key
The answer to keeping our children and employees safe lies in prevention. It is the job of every school administrator and board member to try and prevent acts of violence.
Acts of violence in schools rarely come as a surprise, and are perpetrated by current and former students, employees, domestic partners of employees or, in rare cases, total strangers.
- Virtually all acts are committed by individuals with a relationship of some kind to the school.
- Virtually all individuals who commit acts of violence exhibit warning signs before doing so.
- Virtually all individuals who commit acts of violence tell at least one, and sometimes up to three people, before doing so.
Waiting is not an answer. Watching countless news reports and thinking, ‘something must change,’ is not the answer. The answer is to take action. This year we have witnessed multiple school shootings. We have violence, bullying, sexual molestation, suicide, and substance abuse in our organizations.
There is an epidemic of violence. There is a cure. We have the means to limit the spread and reverse the trend. The Firestorm Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment (BERTHA®) program trains people to identify behaviors of concern and report issues, before they escalate.
Although the central focus of discussion has been on mass shootings recently, a cohesive Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment program is overarching. It teaches people how to identify behaviors of concern that not only lead to violence (this includes the use of ALL deadly weapons – guns, vehicles, bombs, knives, and other weapons), but also helps identify cases of bullying, self-harm, sexual molestation, and additional inappropriate behaviors. It’s proactive as opposed to reactive.
Our goal is to protect ALL persons from ALL crises, both involving and not involving deadly weapons. The solution to keeping our communities safe has multiple layers. We must work together to prevent tragedies.
To learn more about the Firestorm BeRThA® program, contact Firestorm at (800) 321-2219.
The Firestorm April #CrisisCoach webinar series will review identifying behaviors of concern prior to the violence. Join us for part one of this two-part webinar.