|SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER PREPARED THAN MOST|
|October 17, 2001 12:00 am|
Brookings-Harbor High School fits the national profile for schools most likely to experience a Columbine High School-type shooting incident.
However, the district is much more prepared than most in the state to handle such an event.
That was the bad news-good-news message Brookings Police Lt. John Bishop gave school officials during a special school safety presentation at Mondays school board meeting.
You guys are way ahead of the curve in many areas, he said. Those areas include having an established evacuation plan, school administrators who have received special training, identification badges or stickers at the schools, and good communication between school officials and local law enforcement.
Still, there were things the district could do to prevent or respond better to any shooting incident.
Those include classroom doors that can be locked from the inside and cant be opened from the outside, placing room numbers on exterior windows so police and firefighters can respond to the right location, and training teachers and students how to identify warning signs exhibited by student shooters.
Most of the information Bishop shared with school officials came from the various conferences, seminars and training events he has attended since the Columbine shooting several years ago.
In the Columbine incident, two students shot and killed 12 students and a teacher, and injured dozens more.
Columbine really woke us up, Bishop said. It showed us that it can happen anywhere, even here.
He said the FBI has studied the more than 90 school shooting incidents that have happened across the country in recent years and developed a profile of the student most likely to open fire on his classmates, and the type of school where it might happened.
According to the profile, the shooter is most likely to be a white male, age 11 through 18 and from a middle class dysfunctional family. The school is likely to be located in a northwestern rural town with less than 60,000 residents.
As you can see, Brookings fits that profile, Bishop said.
The challenge, he said, is providing a secure, safe school for students while maintaining a learning environment.
School cant be a fortress. It has to be a fun place to come, Bishop said. Its a balancing act. The community must balance the student/parents rights with the administrations desire for a safe school.
He said the suspects in a majority of school shooting incidents were acting out in retaliation against bullies, what they perceived as unfair discipline or rejection by teachers and/or their peers.
Bishop encouraged school administrators and teachers to be on guard for certain signs that may indicate a student is about to commit a violent crime.
Those signs include:
Talking about killing themselves.
Talking to other students about killing many people.
Giving a class speech on subjects such as building pipe bombs or instruments or incidents of mass destruction.
Drawing violent, graphic pictures.
Visiting Web sites about subjects such as killing, suicide and other violent topics.
Doing any or some of these things doesnt mean a student is about to become violent, Bishop said, but they should be considered red flags that teachers, students and administrators should take seriously.
In many shooting cases, the suspect or suspects exhibited many signs in the days or weeks leading up to the shooting.
To be prepared for such an incident, Bishop said schools should form partnerships with law enforcement agencies and the community, review school policies and security, and monitor students exhibiting any of the warning signs.
He said the Brookings Police Department has a mutual aid agreement with the Curry County Sheriffs Department, the Gold Beach and Port Orford police departments and Pelican Bay State Prison. Officers from those agencies have trained together and will be able to act as a single unit if a shooting was to occur at any school.
The bad news, he said, is that any shooting incidents will be better planned and executed by the shooter or shooters than previous incidents.
They are learning from the mistakes of their predecessors, he said. But the good news is that were doing the same thing.
Bishop said he will be be giving the same presentation to school officials in Gold Beach and Port Orford.
He is also planning to share the information with Curry County residents by holding several public meetings during the next few months.
School board member Bill Ferry thanked Bishop for somber presentation and asked if he was going to present any of the information to students.
Im split on that, Bishop said. The FBI recommends against it, at least to this degree.
Bishop said later that he will give a presentation to students, but it will focus more on recognizing the warning signs, how to report them and how to respond in the case of a shooting.