A person can be…
Angry and not be a threat.
A loner and not be a threat.
Poor and not be a threat.
From a broken home and not be a threat.
Have a gun and not be a threat.
Play violent video games and not be a threat.
A religious ‘extremist’ and not be a threat.
Uneducated and not be a threat.
Immature and not be a threat.
Unreasonable and not be a threat.
Be bullied and not be a threat.
A person can even be…..obsessed with violence and not be a threat.
A person can be…
Quiet and be a threat.
Have lots of friends and be a threat.
Rich and be a threat.
From a stable home and be a threat.
Have no weapons and be a threat.
Never play a video game and be a threat.
An atheist and be a threat.
Educated and be a threat.
Mature and be a threat.
Totally reasonable and be a threat.
You can even be…..a pacifist and be a threat.
We’ve made a terrible mistake by thinking that a person’s conditions or stations in life, personal choices, or categories used to describe a person (that we’ve assigned to them) determine if someone is a threat.
They never have and they never will.
The one and only thing that determines if a person is a threat is…will that person use violence to meet a need.
If a person is willing to use violence they are a threat.
Once this is determined, then and only then, does all the other stuff matter because that other stuff will 1) help us to determine the level of risk (the person is already a threat) and 2) tell us the best way to intervene and manage the person in order to lower the level of risk and/or to stop them from being a threat.
It reminds me of the joke where a man asks a woman if she would have sex with him for $1,000,000. The woman agrees and then instantly the man replies, “How about for $60?” The woman becomes outraged and says, “How dare you? What kind of woman do you think I am?” The man says, “Madam, we’ve already established the type of woman you are, we’re just haggling over the price now.”
As soon as we determine that the person will use violence, we know what type of person they are, now we’re just haggling over the risk level.
If a person is angry, uneducated, unreasonable, immature, obsessed with violence, a complete loner, been bullied, has more guns than the US Marines…but will not use violence to meet a need…then we don’t have to worry about him (at least not about hurting themselves or someone else).
However, if a person is calm, reasonable, has lots of friends, comes from a good home, has a 4.0 GPA…but will use violence to meet a need…then we have to worry about him!
Again, the one and only thing that determines if a person is a threat is…will that person use violence to meet a need.
A person with rotten personality traits and low character may make our life uncomfortable, but he doesn’t put us and others in danger just because he is so difficult. However, if he is willing to use violence then our life is in danger and then those rotten personality traits take on significant meaning.
So how do you know if a person is willing to use violence to meet a need?
1. You’ve seen it.
When I was in the Marines, we had to undergo something called NBC training where a person learns how to survive in a biological or chemical environment. In your first class you’re asked, “What’s the best indicator for when you know that it’s time to put on your protective suit?”
The class will offer lots of possible answers…a bomb explodes but it’s only powder…a funny odor that smells like mowed grass…your detection paper changes color…and so on.
When the class runs out of answers the instructor will give the number one indicator and it always produces a good chuckle.
“The enemy is wearing their protective suits.”
If a person has used violence in the past then that’s your best indicator they will use it in the future.
2. They show you.
Search for indicators or concrete behaviors that they are planning and preparing to use violence such as drawing maps, creating hit lists, stockpiling weapons, writing stories or making diary entries that detail exactly how they will use violence, or anything else that exhibits a desire to use violence.
Students are incredibly public and if they are willing to use violence you will most likely find evidence in the form of concrete behaviors.
3.You hear it.
You may hear from a student, teacher, or parent that someone is talking about using violence. The person in question may even tell you that he is planning to use violence. Initially, there’s no reason not to believe the person. However, words carry less weight than behaviors which means that you must search for concrete behaviors that confirm and validate what you’re hearing.
Words are great, observed behaviors are better.
If you noticed, I didn’t mention anything about being mentally ill or not mentally ill. A person can be mentally ill and not be a threat but any person who uses violence is by default mentally ill because to want to murder another person is a complete break with reality. Therefore, every school attacker whether diagnosed or not diagnosed is mentally ill.
Let me wrap up by saying once again, because it’s that important, people aren’t a threat because they have a gun, been bullied, play violent videos game, lousy character traits, and so on…a person is a threat because he feels that by using violence he will meet a particular need. The gun, being bullied, playing violent videos games, lousy character traits, and so on, will lower or raise the level of risk and impact how we’re going to intervene.
Failing to draw this critical distinction puts you at a terrible risk of missing those who are truly a threat or mislabeling those who are not a threat.
Both actions can ruin lives.
>>> If you liked the information in this article, then you’ll like the class School Threat Assessments which enables you to quickly & accurately determine if a person truly poses a threat to themselves and others.