Don Shomette

People are the Prize


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Townville School Attack: Points to Consider

Why would the school attacker yell, “I hate my life” and then began to shoot at students and teachers?

In this video, I go over some of the actions and behaviors of last week’s school attacker in South Carolina as well as discuss one more alarming commonality that is prevalent among school attackers. Namely, first murdering their parents and/or love ones.

 

 

 


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Snapped: Why School Attackers Are Not Like Those Who Riot

Bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell, used the analogy of a person caught up in a riot to describe why students may be attacking our schools.

He asserted that like those in a riot who get carried away by the moment (as well as the crowd) and impulsively act in a manner that they never would any other time, so are students who are attacking our schools.

While it’s a very creative analogy, and something worth thinking about, it is unfortunately not the case with school attackers and decades of data disprove it this theory.

To watch the video…click here!


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Pitch It: Stop Using the Phrase School

The phrase “school safety” has come to mean lots of things (and not all good) to lots of people. I think it’s time we pitch it and stop using it.

Instead, adopt the phrase “preventing violence” and use it whenever you discuss issues of safety and security. After all, isn’t that what we’re really trying to do—prevent violence?

 


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Snapshot: Making An Initial Assessment

When it comes to preventing violence–you have to act and act fast!

You have to make an initial assessment with the information available (regardless of how little you have). An initial assessment is just that–initial. Keep gathering information and keep updating your assessment as the situation evolves.

In all things, take any actions necessary to save and protect lives!

 

 


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Fire Drills: The Model for Preventing School Attacks

“Why do we have so many fire drills each year? We haven’t had a major fire inside a school in a very long time.”

I get this sentiment completely and it makes perfect sense, but there’s another way of looking at it.

Fire is still a serious threat. That hasn’t changed and never will, but how we view fire has changed greatly. We no longer fear it as we once did because, over the decades, we’ve greatly enhanced our ability to prevent fire by implementing effective procedures, creating better fire-resistant building materials, redesigning schools to stop or limit the spread of fire, and instituting a mindset of fire prevention in our students, teachers, and staff members. If you’re getting tired and bored with doing fire drills, that’s not by accident. In fact, it’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel at this stage of the game.

Try to think of it this way.

We had a serious problem that was a very real threat. We worked the problem, faced it head-on, implemented and re-implemented new prevention efforts until we got it right, and now, we’re enjoying the fruits of our diligence.

This is a huge win!

Don’t get bored or tired with fire drills, celebrate the fact that we worked together to mitigate what once was a terrible threat into something that we no longer fear. At least not like we used to.

We also have a concrete example that we can follow. Let’s take this successful model and apply it to preventing the school attack. That’s our serious problem and it’s a very real threat. So, let’s work the problem, face it head-on, and implement and re-implement new prevention efforts until we get it right.

Let’s quickly get to the day that we’re bored with doing lockdown drills…

With the start of a new school year, everyone’s required to conduct a series of mandatory fire drills in quick succession. During each fire drill, let it be a reminder of how far we’ve come and what great things we can do when we work diligently to solve a problem. We should—we must—do the same in preventing violence and the school attack.

We were successful in limiting the threat of fire, we can have the same success in limiting the threat of school attacks.


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Do You Think This is a Threat?

is-this-a-threat-image

I’m asked this question a lot from police officers, superintendents, principals, and parents who want help in determining if a person has made a threat. I have never turned anyone down and I’ve never charged a fee for helping. Why do I tell you this? So maybe you’ll feel more comfortable reaching out for ‘another set of eyes’ when and if you’re faced with scary behavior.

So please call or email if you’re concerned and feel as if you could use some extra help. And for the record, you’re not bugging me—not at all.

Now, how do we know when someone has made a threat?

Very simple. A threat is any expression to do harm. The key word here is any….any expression to do harm which can come in the form of words, a look, gesture, drawing, song, story, poem, disturbing behavior such as building bombs, stockpiling weapons, or researching school attacks, mass murderers, how to have sex with a corpse (yes, one school attacker did so), visiting the sites of other school attacks like Columbine High School (yes, one would-be attacker did so), and watching men be hurt and sexually abused by women (yes, one attacker watched this type of movie before his attack).

And…get ready for it…the attacker can do absolutely nothing discernable and still make a threat.

How can that be?

Our minds are supercomputers that are capable of perceiving on the subconscious level what our eyes miss on the conscious level. We call it a ‘gut feeling’ and it’s our body’s way of letting us know that threatening behaviors are present and while we may not be able to fully explain why we feel the way we do, we just know that we’re not safe.

Listen to your gut feelings and those of your teachers, students, and staff members. If you ever want to see the great good that can come from investigating a gut feeling, read how a teacher and her gut feeling saved lots of lives.

If right about now you’re thinking that this sounds confusing, it’s not. Let’s go back to the beginning for one second.

A threat is any expression to do harm.

Don’t get hung on this first step of discernment. If you’re worried, concerned, frightened, or troubled by a disturbing behavior in any way—treat it as a threat and begin a human threat assessment. Your findings in your threat assessment will clarify (and usually pretty quickly) if the person truly poses a threat to themselves or others and if they’re willing to use violence to meet their need.

That’s what we really need to know! Not if they made a threat, but do they pose a threat.

In my experience, schools that have a threat assessment team and the ability to assess a threat are actually much more relaxed and less anxious when an expression to do harm is observed or suspected. They don’t agonize over whether or not there was a threat, but move quickly to determine if the person poses a threat. This is really what we must know and we’re only going to know it by conducting a comprehensive, accurate, and impartial human threat assessment.

So, jump right in there and begin your threat assessment.

One quick reminder – when you do notice an expression to do harm, do not first think punishment and consequences. Punishment is given for breaking the rules and consequences are the natural result of wrong behavior. Neither of these are the best way to prevent violence in the long term. That doesn’t mean that they cannot be useful tools. Incarceration and required mental evaluation can be useful in stabilizing a dangerous situation as well as mandating additional and needed services for the person.

Instead, first think intervention and management. Intervene in the person’s life to prevent the violence and manage the threat (person) in order to lower the risk level. This is our best, long term solution for making everyone safer.

>>> If you liked the information in this article, then you’ll like the class School Threat Assessments which gives you the skills and ability to not only determine if someone has made a threat, but if they pose a threat.

To learn more about the class go here and to find a class in your area, click on this link. Please email or call if you’d like to host a class and receive free seats for the training.


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The One Thing That Makes a Person a Threat (spoiler…it’s not guns or being bullied)

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.

Likewise…

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.

most-important-thing

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.

To learn more about the class go here and to find a class in your area, click on this link. Please email or call if you’d like to host a class and receive free seats for the training.