Could You Recognize a Student Capable of Violence?

Whenever a tragedy such as a school shooting by student occurs, there is always shock. Often times, the violent student is described as being quiet and seemingly harmless. However, there are always warning signs leading up to acts of violence.


Threat assessment is a community effort and it will take each and every member of a school community to better identify risks and stop violent incidents before they ever occur.

A Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in 2011 found “Nationwide, 20.1% of students had been bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey”. They found this behavior, among many others, to contribute to violence.

School staff members should be educated in these warning signs to help prevent school violence. Although these warning signs are not always blatant, knowing them makes it easier to detect a possible violent student.

History Plays a Big Role

Mental disorders may cause an otherwise nonviolent student to act out of character, but many students who commit violent acts have a history of violence. They may be the victim of abuse or bullying. Perhaps they witnessed gruesome violence, or they have been severely neglected.

The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes these signs as a result of historical factors:

  • consistently challenges authority
  • does not socialize with others
  • seems to lack emotion
  • expresses cruelty towards animals or other people

The student may have a worrisome history. A history of witnessing or experience violence can greatly influence a student, especially a young one, to act out violently against their peers, teachers, or even parents.

After School Activities May Also Affect A Student’s Violent Capabilities

Regardless of history, some students may be influenced towards violence outside of school. Drug use or alcohol consumption can greatly influence mood, personality, or state of mind—especially for students. If the student has violent friends or belongs to a gang, this may also influence violent behavior. Outside influences may appear as certain behaviors. Some of these APA-recognized behaviors are:

  • severe fatigue
  • inability to control emotion
  • little to no interest in socializing
  • obsession with weapons
  • sudden drastic change in behavior

These influences are destructive and can turn a student violent.

Would You Know if a Student Were Behaving Differently?

As mentioned before, many violent students exhibit signs beforehand. Knowing a student’s normal behavior is a huge factor in noticing problematic changes. Look out for these worrisome changes:

  • poor school performance
  • fighting with others
  • poor attitude
  • low self esteem
  • signs of depression

The CDC’s Youth Surveillance survey found that 12.0% of students have been in one or more fights on school property. Fighting in school is a CDC-recognized behavior that contributes to violence.

Ask these questions when you notice changes: Has there been changes in the student’s life outside of school? Are they getting enough sleep, enough food, enough attention? Have they recently been seen for mental or emotional concerns?

Recognizing signs of violence is important. However, it is no substitute for a full education in student violence awareness. The only way to prevent school violence is to be educated. Being trained in threat assessment is the best option to be educated, and be ready.

Know the Signs – Schedule Threat Assessment Training with Defender L.L.C.

“Children deserve a safe setting to learn in. Teachers and staff deserve a safe place to work in. Communities deserve safe schools that educate kids and help keep neighborhoods safer.” – the National Crime Prevention Council

Defender’s OA2® program, which stands for Observe, Assess, and Act, teaches educators, parents/guardians, and school staff how to recognize the warning signs of school violence and how to address these issues in a positive and proactive manner. The results are for the good of the community, the families and most importantly, the students.

OA2® is a one-day training session (with access to follow-on consulting).

Click Here to Schedule Your Threat Assessment Training!

We will work with your program to find an affordable solution to ensure your staff has the training they need to help keep your students protected.

If you have any questions about Threat Assessment Training and how it can help put a stop to senseless school violence, please contact Defender, L.L.C. by calling 410-381-8003. We believe a proactive approach to be the best tool in the fight against school violence.

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