Since much of the research on school shootings emphasizes the need for peers, not school officials, to share information about other students who make comments or mention plans for violence, this qualitative case study examined the information school officials had prior to a school shooting that killed two students.
This case analysis focused on the following three questions: 1) What information did school officials have about the student perpetrator? 2) What factors, if any, influenced the interpretation, management, and sharing of information in the case? 3) What lessons, if any can be learned from this case that might promote the sharing of information that helps students and prevents violence? The police investigation found that the perpetrator, who killed one student and then himself at a Colorado high school in December 2013, engaged in inappropriate and disturbing behavior at the school and at school-sponsored events on several occasions over a 2-year period. He had threatened to kill another student. The school psychologists performed a threat assessment of the student with his parent present. He was labeled a "low risk." He continued to display anger and aggression on other occasions at school. This study recommends that school staff visualize the larger system of information-sharing and violence prevention within the school and district. The school should model and reward both individual and organization self-reflection on current communication systems and implement the improvements identified during those reflections. The wish to protect the reputation of students with behavioral problems and the need to ensure the safety of all students and staff must be addressed, so that a culture of caring and a culture of safety have priority and receive the proper balance. 2 tables, 1 figure, and 40 references