SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 112
33 Killed at Virginia Tech
Highest Death toll of recent such shooting rampages
Let’s Stop the violence!
Assessing the Potentially Dangerous Student TtT
On April 17, 2007 a male who appeared to be of Asian ancestry entered a dormitory on the campus of Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. After a brief argument he produced a previously concealed handgun and shot two residents. Two and a half hours later the same individual started shooting in a classroom building on the same campus; another half hour later the last gunshots were heard see timeline. During the course of this three hour event 33 people including the gunman were killed and another dozen or so were wounded. The world is left with the same, age old questions, “ How could this happen? Couldn’t anyone see this coming? and Could anything have been done to prevent it?”
First, this happened because an emotionally troubled person decided that his only logical relief from the constant torment he felt daily was death and that making as many others as possible suffer in his exodus was better than dying alone. This is, of course, distorted logic but that was his possible perception and therefore his reality.
Are there others with this same delusional outlook? Absolutely, there are thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands. The difference is that most realize they are in trouble and seek help. Others are provided interventions through parents, school, mental health agencies, the courts and others. Still others live within themselves and escape reality mentally or commit suicide alone.
The next two questions are addressed as one: Yes, this could have been seen coming, and Yes, something could have been done. This event could have been seen coming, not by psychics, but by those who are aware of the actions of others and have been trained to report, investigate, assess or intervene. As with other shooters (and suicides) this individual did not suddenly wake up on Tuesday morning, get sick and decide to kill 32 people and himself. This was the culmination of a long build-up of smaller, life changing events over a period of time. This build-up was played out in front of fellow students, University staff, police, courts and a mental health agency, many of whom noted the growing problem with concern. Unfortunately, there was no system in place to handle such observations and concerns.
Taking a closer look at the shooter’s life from what has been revealed in open sources since the shooting, the following was known before the incident (Warning Signs):
- Cho Seung-Hui, age 23, was a Korean immigrant who had been in the United States for about 16 years.
- His family was poor in Korea and remained poor in the US.
- He refused to talk with his roommate.
- He was getting up 1 ½ hours earlier for no apparent reason.
- He would not make eye contact with his roommate, classmates or teachers.
- He wrote dark, macabre papers for English assignments.
- His behavior changed to “bizarre” and “unpredictable”
- He was “sullen” and “isolated.”
- He was a “loner.”
- He wore sunglasses and a cap indoors, in classes.
- He harassed several female students
- He told roommates he wanted to commit suicide.
- He was referred to the campus counseling center by a professor
- He was referred to police for suicide threats.
- He was even hospitalized for suicidal ideations.
The reason that nothing was done for this individual is that there was nothing in-place to act as a net to capture these observations, to measure them nor to intervene appropriately when they were observed and reported yet ever measured nor appropriate follow-up. There is such a system, Assessing the Potentially Dangerous Student from Keys To Safer Schools.com.
This system is designed to reach everyone with the concept of being AWARE. It further provides a unique, easy to learn way to objectively assess what is known about a person and apply that to a matrix and a measurement tool to determine if intervention is indicated and what intervention should be applied. It can be utilized multiple times, once a baseline is set, showing if the student is escalating and more restrictive services are needed or de-escalating showing that the intervention is working.
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If your school needs help in establishing policy or implementing procedures for a Crisis/Emergency Response Plan and Team contact Keys To Safer Schools.com today for assistance from the Multi-disciplinary Team.