Identifying Potential School Shooters

Now that school is starting again, the topic of “how can we identify potential school shooters and be proactive instead of reactive?” has been renewed. It seems each year this is an area of concern.

What you may not know is that I have been doing just that for nearly 30 years and all the indicators are in their handwriting!

TEACHERS have access to handwriting EVERY DAY… we have societal awareness but need SOCIETAL EDUCATION. 

That’s where my forensic handwriting classes come in!

While there is NO WAY to catch 100% of “potential school shooters” (or any other criminal or perpetrator)… this would significantly CUT DOWN on the amount of shooters… and victims!

It should be a REQUIREMENT for teachers, counselors, etc. to take these forensic handwriting classes. Added bonus? It is something very interesting instead of their same ole’ redundant-yet-required classes.  

In fact, when I worked in the Department of Corrections in the late 90’s, I remember taking a class in which the documents used were in part from Psychologist Shawn Johnston. In this part of the class, it described school shooters as killers who are “very self-centered, very self-absorbed, angry youngsters who derive extraordinary pleasure from savage vengeance they wreak on one another”. Dr. Johnston stated that this was consistent with over 5,000 interviews of both juvenile and adult offenders in the past 20 years. Dr. Johnston further described them as having the “all about me” attitude… “they are frustrated, angry, in some pain, not getting everything they want. They feel like victims, have no concern for others and don’t think about others. It’s all about who they are and what they want”.

Of the inmates I had a chance to talk to for some of my college assignments, many believe that pain is the foundation or root case of violence or aggression. If you think about it, I guess that actually does make sense. Just think of the animals and children who have been severely tortured and abused – typically they become very aggressive which essentially becomes the baseline or default behavior.

Today in a meeting, we discussed “can profiling prevent violence?” That is kind of like asking which came first – the chicken or the egg.

However, for over three decades even the FBI has relied on “behavioral profiling” to try to catch the next Ted Bundy. It was no surprise when I heard that the FBI and Secret Service had been instructing school officials around the globe on this very topic. Yet some people – private professionals as well as entire school districts are opposed to doing so stating that, aside from being an invasion of privacy and a way to label kids unnecessarily, it is also very ‘arrogant for anyone to think they can build a psychological profile on potential offenders’… but is it?

In reply, the FBI stated that it really isn’t “profiling” per se but more of “identifying warning signs and risk factors so schools don’t wait until their is an incident”. 

There are several screening tools such as the Mosaic-2000 which was created by over 200 behavioral health, education, and law enforcement professionals. The Mosaic-2000 rates students based on their answers from a scale of 1 – 10.  Another group of professionals at the National School Safety Center shared their “Checklist of Characteristics of Youth Who Have Caused School-Associated Violent Deaths”.

Why bother with the criminal profile anyway?
First of all, I think it is important to mention that not all cases qualify for profiling like television shows may lead you to believe. In fact, not even all murder or rapes qualify either. Usually those that qualify for profiling involve something of a serial nature, are extremely violent or have a very different M.O. than most. However, cases of abducted children or other vulnerable populations often quality. Basically, in a nutshell, the more violent the crime, the more likely it will qualify.

There are a few reasons why a profiler may be called into a case. One of these reasons is in a unique situation or case type that the investigators are not already comfortable working, if all leads have been exhausted or if it’s been unsolved for an extended time.

The FBI version of profilers such as John Douglas (aka: MIND HUNTER) can be called in but so can a “handwriting profiler” such as myself. John’s version of profiling is extremely valuable and can help narrow the offender type (which can also narrow the body count), help locate the offender (quick apprehension), and provide many other details such as age, gender, etc.

“Handwriting profilers” can do much of the same. In fact, I have worked cases where I profile the subject’s personality to see what type of people and places he is likely to hang out with as well as potential hobbies he may have. In addition I can see the likeliness of mental illness, addiction, trauma, physical distress, preferred methods of violence, deception, and more.

Overall, whatever type of profiling is used, it is a tool and should not take the place of investigative work. Profilers do not actually solve the case per se, instead investigators often work around the clock to do so while using all tools available to them that may assist in case closure.

For more information on “profiling” please visit my site. However, to learn more about FBI profiler John Douglas, please visit Mind Hunter.