During their first day back to school, teachers in the Governor Mifflin School District were trained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on how to identify pre-attack behaviors and indicators in their students. FBI Special Agent Raymond Carr presented the seminar to the staff.
Carr has been working with the FBI out of Philadelphia since 1991. Prior to that, he worked in the division in Buffalo, NY. He has seen it all, as he has worked in hostage situations, dealt with terrorism, white collar crimes and gang activity.
“You, as teachers, are the front line to being able to identify what these indicators are,” Carr stated in his opening remarks.
With past school shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook Elementary, teachers are being educated in recognizing behavior in students that may be a precursor to a future threat. When a dangerous situation does occur, Carr said the police usually take four minutes when responding to a situation, and are present after the attack. “Before and during is when you come in,” he said to the Mifflin staff.
“This is one of the courageous conversations we have to have,” Kevin Smith, director of assessment, data and student learning, said.
“Trust your gut instinct,” Carr said, “it’s so important. We, and the children, depend on you. Don’t ignore it if you see something.”
Carr stressed to the teachers the importance of telling administrators if the teacher believes they recognize an indicator in the child. School shooters are often loners, and there will always be warning signs. While there is no profile for an active shooter, it is important to examine behavioral warning signs.
“Behavior is truth, people cannot hide who they are,” Carr said.
Observable pre-attack indicators include changes in behavior, irresponsible acts, and high-risk activities, threatening behavior, harassment, lack of healthy social ties, severe depression, bizarre thoughts, obsession with other people, behavioral changes, hopeless statements, possession of and access to weapons. Antisocial and narcissistic traits, extreme anger, paranoia, and depression are among the characteristics in students of which teachers should be aware.
Attacks also occur more often during October and April/May due to mid-terms; 75% of the attackers use firearms.
Notoriety and revenge are the biggest motivating factors for shooters. “Active shooters are looking to get as many numbers as they can, it’s the infamy to it,” Carr said.
Carr debunked the rumor that violent video games lead to violent behavior. “There is no correlation between violence and video games,” Carr said.
There are two different types of behavior: affective and predatory. Affective behavior is a reaction to the outside world, where the feelings are instinctual. Predatory behavior is a planned, attack mode of violence.
Carr instructed the Mifflin teachers to take all threats seriously, and to always say something because 50% of the attackers plan for at least two weeks.
“In 81% of the cases, at least one other person knew and didn’t say anything,” said the FBI Special Agent, adding, “In 59% of the cases, two or more people knew.”
There is a high importance to being able to recognize these signs in the students, but also to pass along the information.
“You need to provide the information to law enforcement so we can do our job. It’s so important, and often times it doesn’t happen. If you see something, make sure that you tell someone of authority,” Carr said.
According to the course organizers, Governor Mifflin is the first school district in Berks County to participate in this program.