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Expert: Schools Should Be More Proactive to Prevent School Violence

Contact: Thomas K. Capozzoli, 765-455-9218,; Kim Medaris, Purdue Media Relations, 765-494-6998,  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Oct. 13 /Standard Newswire/ -- The school shootings that have occurred in recent weeks are evidence that not enough has been done by administrators and teachers since Columbine to prevent such tragedies, says a Purdue University expert in school and workplace violence.


Thomas K. Capozzoli, director of the College of Technology's statewide locations in Kokomo, Lafayette and Indianapolis and co-author of two books on violence, says administrators, teachers and parents all have the responsibility to take a proactive role in identifying risk factors in schools and students that may lead to dangerous situations.


"What troubles me is that since Columbine, I've seen very little new in the way schools are protected or in the way teachers and administrators handle students who may be a risk," Capozzoli says. "School shootings do not take place in a vacuum, and in all the instances in the last few weeks, someone knew what might take place."


"Whether it is through subtle signs or overt words, shooters either tell someone about their potential actions or they act out in other ways."


Capozzoli co-authored the book "Kids Killing Kids, Managing Violence and Gangs in Schools" with Steve McVey that was published just after the 1999 deadly school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.


He says in the Oct. 3 shooting, where a 32-year-old man entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa., killing five girls and himself, there may have been little school staff could have done. But in the other recent instances, he says schools officials could have done a better job in keeping intruders out.


Capozzoli says the shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., is one example in which more could and should have been done. On Sept. 26, a man held six students hostage and then shot and killed a 16-year-old girl and himself.


"In this case, the shooter was a man who had no connection to the school, but had been to the school the day before asking questions," he says. "Why didn't someone question this and report it? Had action been taken, this tragedy might have been prevented."


He says this would have been a key factor in preventing this shooting, since this particular school had been designed with safety in mind after Columbine.


"Great thought had been put into security and how to get students out of the building and contain a situation. But still this man was able to get into the school."


Other recent instances of violence include the Sept. 29 shooting where a 15-year-old student shot and killed a school principal in Cazenovia, Wis., and the Oct. 10 case of a teenager who fired an assault rifle at the ceiling of his school in Joplin, Mo., before the weapon jammed. Police said he had made plans to place an explosive in the school and had been fascinated with the Columbine massacre.


Capozzoli says reactive plans are important for schools, but it is vital for all schools to have proactive plans as well. He says schools should prevent easy access by locking all doors except one after school begins. Anyone coming through the single unlocked door should be monitored by a metal detector and checked by a security officer. He says visitors should be required to sign in, receive a pass, and then be escorted to where they need to go.


Capozzoli says just as important is training administrators, teachers and students to be aware of and report situations that seem out of the ordinary.


"All suspicious people or unusual situations may not be harmful, but each report must be investigated," he says. "This may be overwhelming, but it is an absolutely necessary step to preventing another violent situation."