School Shooting

Risk Factors for School Shootings

Abigail Tingle M.S.

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On February 14, 2018, the Florida school shooting that resulted in the death 17 people marked the 12th school shooting to occur within the United States since the beginning of the year. This means that a school shooting has occurred within our country almost every two days… and we are only two months into the new year.

Mass shootings and violence within schools used to be a rare and shocking occurrence. Now it seems that these events are rampant within our country. As a result of the frequency of these tragic events, society risks becoming desensitized to disasters that don't affect them directly.  When there is less attention or concern for these devastating acts, their frequency increases.  It is crucial that we remain aware of the significance of these events and the impact that it has on our children, communities and our nation as a unit so that mass shootings can be prevented. 

When there is a shooting or violent event that takes place within a school, the motive of the attack is thoroughly analyzed from a mental health standpoint. Often, the individual who commits the crime is suffering from emotional distress because of personal life occurrences. People who turn violent are frequently victims of bullying, people who have not found a way to make the bullying stop, have hit a personal limit and are desperate to make it stop. They typically feel isolated and rejected by their peers and sometimes even their family.  Without a good support team, these individuals may become more isolated or withdrawn.  Less frequently, the shooter may be copying behavior they’ve seen, or heard about. These are only a few of the reasons why a person may become violent.  Some risk factors are known to increase the likelihood that a young person will become violent.

What are some risk factors?

  • History of violent victimization
  • History of early aggressive behavior
  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • Poor behavioral control
  • High emotional distress
  • History of emotional problems
  • Antisocial beliefs and attitudes
  • Exposure to violence and conflict in the family
  • Low parental involvement
  • Low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers
  • Association with delinquent peers
  • Social rejection by peers
  • Lack of involvement in conventional activities
  • Poor academic performance
  • Low commitment to school and school failure

It is imperative that we become aware of these risk factors and spread this knowledge to others so that unusual behaviors do not go unnoticed and indications of violence are more widely identified, reported and understood. See something, say something.  For more information, visit the CDC website below.

End Fear and Enter Empowerment. How to Respond when your Children ask Questions about School Shootings.

Abigail Tingle M.S.


The beginning of the new year has marked 11 shootings in America. The most recent attack in a high school in Kentucky seems to have left our nation numb to gun violence and school shootings. In times of distress, parents and caregivers fall silent when asked questions by their children about the recent attacks. From a preventative standpoint, this is the worst thing to do. Unanswered questions leave your child guessing and wondering on the subject, resulting in fear and worry. While these occurrences are indeed frightening, we must teach our children to understand violence and the importance of awareness. Instead of instilling fear into the minds of our children, let us empower them by providing them with age-appropriate knowledge of these events. Do you want to be able to discuss these incidents with your children? Check out some of our helpful tips below.

·         Keep the story simple. The younger the child, the simpler the explanation of the event should be. Keep in mind what you want your child to take away from this conversation. A young child should be given as little detail as possible.

·         Be honest, but do not overshare. Be sure to truthfully answer the questions that your child asks you. The worst thing that can be done is to spread false information. However, remember not to provide too much detail if the child does not ask. Often, children want to know the synopsis of the event and the upsetting details are not beneficial whatsoever.

·         Be available for questions and conversation at all times. Explain the basics of these events, keeping in mind the age, maturity and temperament of your child. Understand that one conversation may not suffice, and it is likely that your child will return with more questions. Be available and open to this. Some children are more apt to handle intense information than others.

·         Ask them what they know, since they'll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

·         Consider your own reactions. Your kids will look to the way you handle the news to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and rational, they will, too. Process your own emotional response and have your first reaction away from your child.

·         Focus on the positive. This may be difficult to find. Try and highlight the heroes of the story and stress their importance.

·         Take action. Depending on the issue and kids' ages, families can find ways to help those affected by recent events. (i.e. sending postcards or drawings to the victim’s families or community)

·         Most importantly, listen to what your child has to say. Create a safe and understanding environment where children can feel free to come to you if they have questions or concerns. This way you can be certain they are receiving factual and age appropriate information.

By increasing understanding of school violence and shootings, we look to diminish fear in our children. Providing factual, age-appropriate information about these events gives a sense of empowerment to your child. This way, they can go to school and feel that they have the power to spread information that will benefit their peers and diminish their fears as well. Simply answering questions and having a conversation about school shootings spreads awareness and instills strength and confidence in children. Strong and confident children are less likely to fall into the footsteps of those committing violent acts before them. For more information on how to discuss violent events with your children, visit