Even as the nation mourns the Red Lake, Mn., school killings, experts are calling attention to how much has been learned in the six years since Columbine, and how much better prepared schools can be to avert such disasters, says the Christian Science Monitor. What’s important is good relationships among students and staff, listening, spotting warning signs, and persuading students to overcome the hallway code of silence –that it’s OK to report threats. “These shootings are not spontaneous. They’re not random. This happens over time,” says Paul Viollis of Risk Control Strategies, a security consulting firm.
A common thread in nearly all the major incidents is that the shooter tells a few friends or others of his plans. There are also often warning signs that seem, in retrospect, like red flags. “It’s easy to focus in on shootings, but we also need to look at what we’re doing about harassment, teasing, bullying,” says William Modzeleski of the U.S. Education Department. The real key is “putting adults in there that kids can talk to them when they have a problem, making sure they can listen, that they have the willingness to listen, and can provide them with guidance.” One challenge is that resources for antiviolence programs are scarce. President Bush’s 2006 budget proposes eliminating the state grant allocations from the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, a main source of antiviolence funds for states.