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By Dr. Harry Tennant

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The shooter slipped through the cracks

Following the school shooting at Santa Fe High School in May, 2018, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that the 17 year old shooter's journal showed 

"not only did he want to commit this shooting, but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting, planned on doing this for some time. He advertised his intentions but somehow slipped through the cracks."

The student's journals have not been made public. We must rely on what Governor Abbott and others who have access to them tell us.

The conclusion that he "planned on doing this for some time" is consistent with the preparations made for the attack. He not only came to school with a shotgun and a .38 calibre revolver. He also apparently brought multiple improvised explosive devices, pressure cookers, Molotov cocktaills, pipe bombs, propane tanks and other homemade explosives that were found around the school and parking lot. It takes some time to construct an armory like that.

"Slipped through the cracks"

The Duty to Warn

What do we mean when we say someone slipped through the cracks? The Governor said the shooter "advertised his intentions." We can't know exactly what this means without reading the journals but in the majority of cases like these where planning and preparation for violence is going on, the planner tells or hints to others what he's up to. Law enforcement calls this "leakage." "Falling through the cracks" could mean that the people who learned of the plans and preparations didn't report it or didn't understand it. The people who learned of the plans were most likely fellow students. They are most commonly the recipients of "leakage."

The way to seal this crack is to 

  1. Make students aware of the duty to warn, i.e., tell teachers or staff what is going on.
  2. Make students aware of what constitutes a developing threat: developing a plan or preparation or rehearsal for violent acts. Was he building and trying out his explosive devicees? That poses a threat.

Assembling the Puzzle Over Time

Another common way for something to slip through the cracks is when information trickles in over time from various sources. Sometimes it's hard to know when various pieces belong to the same puzzle. But with school violence, that tends to be simplified. Pieces can be organized around one or two individuals. Secondly, if you have an information collection place, pieces of information can be aggregated over time, organized by the individual posing the threat.

This is exactly what Edclick's School Safety Manager is designed to do. It allows people to express "concerns" about a student. A concern doesn't mean the student has done anything wrong, but that he might be at risk of becoming violent. Next, School Safety Manager is a collection point for accumulating more information about a student. And a team can assess whether there is a threat and how severe that threat is. Interventions can be assigned. The student's behavior with respect to planning and preparing for violence can be monitored. Ideally, the interventions are effective and the threat is reduced or goes away.

In the case of this student at Santa Fe High School, if he hadn't "slipped through the cracks" 10 deceased classmates would be starting a new school year right now and 13 others would not be dealing with their healing gunshot wounds.


Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

Posted at 12:00 AM Keywords: School Safety Manager , prevention , school violence 0 Comments

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