Is Social Media the Key to Ending School Violence?
In today’s world, where school shootings and school violence seem to be almost commonplace, school officials, teachers, parents, and community members must be on the lookout for any warning signs of potential violence. The idea here is that many of the individuals who carry out these violent attacks talk with others about their ideas and feelings well before the incident. Others record their thoughts in journals or diaries, while others publicize their intentions — or at least hint at them — on blogs or social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.
“I think they (the students) want to get in touch with us,” explained Dr. Frank Robertz, co-founder of the Institute for Violence Prevention and Applied Criminology in Berlin, referring to students who carry out acts of targeted violence. “They send us signals along the way.”
All we have to do is stop and listen. It is up to teachers, school staff, and parents to recognize these warning signs and act accordingly. Schools in Georgia, for example, have begun using social media to identify potential threats and stop them before they even start.
“It’s provided a proactive safety measure for our students,” said Gary Brantley, DeKalb County’s chief information officer.
According to a national study, school threats increased 158 percent from the 2013 to 2014 school years. Most of this increase came via social media – Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak, Instagram, etc. – which accounted for 231 of the 812 threats reviewed – 28 percent.
“We are seeing an increase in the type of media we have now where people are upping the ante,” said Brian Van Brunt, president of the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association and author of Ending Campus Violence: New Approaches to Prevention.
- A University of Georgia student was recently indicted after posting threats on the social media app Yik Yak. The student warned classmates and faculty to stay away from the UGA’s Zell B. Miller Learning Center “if you want to live,” claiming “I’m coming with an AK.”
- Last week, a 15-year-old Fairfield, California high school student was arrested after tweeting a picture of himself holding a rifle and threatening to hurt classmates and faculty.
- After receiving an anonymous social media post, colleges in Philadelphia were on high alert for a potential attack.
And the list goes on and on…
“If there’s something out there we know we can try to save one life, then it’s our responsibility to try it,” said Lawrence Feldman, Miami-Dade County School Board member.
Social Media is Just One Piece of the Puzzle
“The first and best line of defense is always a well-trained, highly-alert staff,” said Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services.
Defender L.L.C.’s OA2 program is a one-day training session (with access to follow-on consulting) that 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. OA2 stands for Observe, Assess, and Act. 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.