School shootings can be averted if warning signs spotted -U.S. report

·2-min read

(Reuters) - Many potential school shooters exhibit danger signs that can be acted on ahead of time, giving educators, families and fellow students a chance to avert the next tragedy, according to a U.S. Secret Service report issued on Tuesday.

The agency's National Threat Assessment Center studied 67 plots against schools that were thwarted from 2006 to 2018 to produce the report, finding that "there are almost always intervention points available before a student's behavior escalates to violence."

School shootings are one subset of the mass shootings that have plagued the United States, including two this month.

A 21-year-old suspect killed eight people including six Asian-American women at three spas in the Atlanta area on March 16, police said. Six days later, another 21-year-old opened fire at a grocery in Boulder, Colorado, killing 10 people, police said.

When it comes to school shootings, students who merely plotted attacks shared similarities with those able to carry them out, the report said.

Both showed tendencies such as a history of requiring discipline at school and contact with law enforcement; experiencing bullying, depression or suicidal tendencies; planning to kill themselves as part of their attacks; using drugs or alcohol; or experiencing childhood trauma such as abuse or jailed or addicted parents, the report said.

The 67 averted shootings demonstrated that trouble signs can be spotted ahead of time.

"In every case, tragedy was averted by members of the community coming forward when they observed behaviors that elicited concern," the report said, noting that fellow students were often the best-placed to identify the warnings.

Among such harbingers was displaying an interest in Adolf Hitler, Nazism and white supremacy, the report said. Plotters also typically had access to weapons at home, either through unfettered access or stealing them from their parents.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Cooney)