There's a dozen early indicators of school violence

By Bill Nolte | Oct 05, 2013

Last month this column was about the lack of a reliable profile for school shooters and those who commit violence at school.  There really isn’t a reliable profile to identify school shooters.  The personal characteristics vary and predicting that someone will commit school violence is unreliable at best.

With that said, there is a growing body of research pointing to “early indicators” that are common among people who commit school violence.  Before we proceed, the following are “early indicators” they are not predictors.  Therefore, they should be used with caution.

The early indicators are not personal characteristics (race, gender, religion, age, etc.) and should not be used to label or discipline children.   Children with these early indicators don’t automatically commit violent acts.  However, children displaying multiple indicators, especially at an early age, need help to deal with the underlying causes.  If underlying causes are not effectively addressed, there is potential for violent behavior.  Early indicators for school violence include:

  1. Engages in violent behavior, tantrums and uncontrollable outbursts
  2. Inability to maintain positive friendships
  3. Maintains friendships with those engaged in antisocial behavior
  4. Engages frequently in name calling, cursing or abusive language
  5. Brings or threatens to bring weapons to school
  6. Exhibits signs of substance abuse
  7. Suspension from school on multiple occasions
  8. Preoccupied with violence against people
  9. Has little or no parental supervision at an early age
  10. 10.  Has been a victim of abuse by parents, guardians or family members
  11. 11.  Has repeatedly witnessed abuse or violence
  12. 12.  Has experienced significant trauma or loss

The keys to understanding and using these indicators to help people are the terms “early, multiple and often.”  One could easily find a way to link one if these early indicators with many children.  That is why we need to consider the following questions.  How early were indicators observed?  How many indicators are linked to one child?  How often does the child display these early indictors?

If you know a child who, at an early age, displayed several of the early indicators listed above, please do what you can to get them some help.  This help will certainly require the assistance of family and should focus on addressing the underlying causes.  Responses to early indicators often require more assistant than can be provided by an individual family or by school staff.