must have a title page, an abstract, content page(s) [2 pages], and a reference page with at least three (3) reliable sources (the original article and two others that either support or counters the selected article). You must write in 3rd person, do not use any contractions unless they are in a direct quote.
select one (of five) articles that I have provided for you
you will reflect on how it could affect you in your future career in criminal justice
American Behavioral Scientist Volume 52 Number 10 June 2009 1465-1485
© 2009 SAGE Publications 10.1177/0002764209332558
http://abs.sagepub.com hosted at
Authors’ Note: All correspondence should be directed to James Alan Fox, College of Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115.
Mass Murder Goes to College An Examination of Changes on College Campuses Following Virginia Tech James Alan Fox Jenna Savage Northeastern University, Boston
Notwithstanding the historical significance of the Columbine shooting, recent attention has shifted to college campuses following high-profile massacres at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. In this article, the authors compile and discuss the recom- mendations most often put forth by task force reports published in the wake of these epi- sodes. Although some proposals can increase the security and well-being of the campus community, others may be inappropriate and even carry unacceptable negative conse- quences. The problem rests partly in the implicit assumption that effective strategies for secondary schools will seamlessly translate to a college environment. However, campus shootings are not just Columbine graduated to higher education, as differences in assailant motivation and setting warrant divergent strategies for prevention and response.
Keywords: campus violence; campus security; active shooters
The 1990s witnessed a disturbing string of high-profile mass killings at middle and high schools around the country, the most horrific of which was, of course,
the 1999 shooting spree commemorated by this special volume. The episode in Littleton, Colorado, one decade ago was so powerfully and deeply ingrained in the nation’s collective psyche that “doing a Columbine” became widely known code for threatening the safety and security of a school.
Whereas the 1990s brought focus to conduct and disciplinary issues confronting secondary schools, a radically different form of campus violence has commanded our attention in recent years—specifically, shooting rampages at colleges and universities, highlighted by massacres at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University less than 10 months apart. Although incidents at middle schools, high schools, and institutions of higher education all fall under the umbrella of “school shootings,” there are, in fact, several characteristics of shootings at college campuses that make them unique. As will be discussed, a major distinction surrounds the motivation and age of the shooter, which are important differences for consideration when fashioning appropriate steps for prevention. In addition, differences in the
1466 American Behavioral Scientist
school environment—that is, a single building versus a sprawling campus—means that a reasonable response to shootings at middle or high schools (for example, lockdown) may not be feasible at colleges and universities. Thus, college administrators should not hastily adopt preventive measures simply because they appear effective at lower level schools. In fact, administrators should think very carefully before adopting many measures that are popular among colleges and universities these days, as some common strategies are not necessarily productive and may even potentially have negative consequences.
Pervasive media images of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University have raised the specter of serious violence on college campuses. By any measure, however, the risk of serious violence on campus remains remarkably low, particularly in its most extreme form (see Fox, 2007). Although the chances of serious violence may be remote, the potential consequences can be devastating and long-lasting. Understandably, college officials have responded proactively to the risk, as parents rightly expect a special level of care for their sons and daughters while they are away at school. At least in the short term, while the possibility for copycatting is not insignificant (see Fox, 2008b), it is prudent that colleges take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of students as well as faculty and other employees.
Unfortunately, some of the measures colleges and universities are undertaking, amidst an atmosphere of fear, go beyond what is reasonable. In some cases, they may, in fact, do more harm than good. By overreacting to Virginia Tech and other widely publicized incidents, not only are college administrators instituting security measures that may well prove ineffective, but they are also undermining the carefree atmosphere of campus life. They chance making students feel like walking targets, thereby intensifying the level of anxiety. At the same time, obsessive attention to the potential for bloodshed may actually increase the likelihood of a campus copycat. The messages speak to the few unhappy souls who would welcome a campus shooting, so long as they are on the back end of the gun.
This article critically examines a variety of institutional responses to the threat of an “active shooter,” the term commonly used to characterize the perpetrator of a seemingly random assault with a firearm. In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, various task forces were organized throughout the country to identify the steps colleges and universities should take to prevent such an event and how to respond effectively should an episode occur (e.g., State of Florida, 2007). However, though the Virginia Tech incident was the impetus for these task forces and provided the prototype for college/university shootings, the assailant in that case was, in fact, quite different from most other shooters at college campuses. As we will discuss in this article, these gunmen are often overworked, overstressed graduate students confronting academic failure or disappointment, not troubled undergrads with violent fantasies. By hyperfocusing on the Virginia Tech case, colleges and universities may overlook important steps that can be taken for preventing campus violence. In addition, many strategies that sound good on the
Fox, Savage / Mass Murder Goes to College 1467
surface are, upon closer scrutiny, neither good nor sound. In this article, we examine the top recommendations promoted by the various task forces with respect to their appropriateness and effectiveness. Finally, we focus on the significant differences between episodes that have occurred at middle/high schools and those that have devastated colleges. Shootings at college campuses are not just Columbine graduated to higher education, as the differences in assailant motivation and locale warrant divergent strategies for prevention and response.
Prevalence of Campus Homicide
Notwithstanding the high-profile shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University and the resulting potential for contagion, it is important to maintain perspective on the actual level of risk. Based upon data gleaned from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program and the U.S. Department of Education’s records mandated by the Clery Act, as well as detailed media reports gathered from searching electronic newspaper databases, 76 homicides were reported on college campuses nationwide between 2001 and 2005. Leaving aside cases involving faculty, staff, or other nonstudents as victims, the count of undergraduates and graduate students murdered at school numbered 51, an average of about 10 per year. And of these homicides, as shown in Table 1, the majority involved acquaintance killings or drug deals gone bad, not rampaging shooters.
Amidst a climate of panic and anxiety, notwithstanding the actual risks, we have witnessed many new ways in which colleges and universities have tried to improve their security and preparedness in the event of an on-campus shooter. Indeed, campus safety has apparently become a significant factor in the college selection process for countless applicants and their parents. Newsweek published a special edition in August 2007, advising students and parents on how to tell whether a school is safe (Murr, 2007). Reader’s Digest (2008) followed by grading colleges for safety based on the availability of such measures as lockdown procedures and armed security officers. Not only are schools feeling pressured to divert scarce resources away from academic needs over to security, but an overemphasis on protecting the campus from armed attackers can be counterproductive. Many American colleges are oversteering, by instituting knee-jerk “campus safety” measures of questionable effectiveness. Moreover, the call for safety readiness and vigilance for suspicious or alarming behavior may actually be needlessly sustaining the level of fear.
Responding to Tragedy
To gather information about “best practices” in campus safety and violence prevention, we reviewed 20 reports from various task forces and study groups
1468 American Behavioral Scientist
around the country. A complete list of these reports and their recommendations is provided in the appendix (see O’Neill et al., 2008). Several of these recommendations are quite reasonable and practical, such as having a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with community partners for such services as acute mental health care and emergency response; having interoperable communications systems; conducting risk and safety assessments; and educating faculty, staff, and students about recognizing and responding to signs of mental illness and potential threats. Given the specific details provided by many of these reports, it is not possible to consider every single recommendation that was made. We shall, however, critically examine those
Table 1 Patterns of College Campus Homicide
in the United States, 2001–2005 (N = 76)
Weapon Gun 52.2 Knife 11.6 Personal 21.7 Other 14.5 Sex of victim Male 61.3 Female 38.7 Victim role Student 57.3 Faculty 9.3 Staff 9.3 Child 5.3 Other 18.7 Sex of offender Male 90.8 Female 9.2 Offender role Student 35.5 Former student 5.3 Outsider 32.2 Undetermined 27.0 Victim/offender relationship Partner 12.5 Friend 28.3 Acquaintance 6.6 Stranger 27.6 Undetermined 25.0
Source: Homicide reports drawn from the U.S. Department of Education, FBI Uniform Crime Reports, and electronic newspaper archives.
Fox, Savage / Mass Murder Goes to College 1469
recommendations that were the most commonly articulated. More specifically, we will highlight the top 7 recommendations—those that were made by at least 70% of the reports.
1. Create an all-hazards Emergency Response Plan (ERP). The most often rec- ommended approach is the creation of an all-hazards ERP. It is no surprise, there- fore, that a Reader’s Digest survey of 135 colleges and universities throughout the country found that more than 90% of schools have ERPs in place (see Figure 1). This is a relatively simple step that schools can take to be prepared in the event of an emergency, be it a campus shooting, a natural disaster, or some other major threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.
However, as Figure 1 also reveals, many schools have moved beyond just an ERP by having lockdown plans as well. Rooted in correctional nomenclature, “campus lockdown” is a popular catchphrase on campus security, often raised in parental inquiries about safety procedures. In fact, based on the Reader’s Digest survey, a majority of schools reported having a full or partial lockdown plan in place.
Leaving aside the impossibility of truly locking down a sprawling campus, most college shootings take place in one location—in just one building, if not just one classroom. It is also true, notwithstanding the unique lull in activity in the Virginia Tech case, that campus shooting sprees typically begin and end so quickly that locking down students in dorms and classrooms and turning away off-campus students would not necessarily help (see Greenberg, 2007). Furthermore, there is a significant downside to sealing off access to buildings during an active shooter episode. Although a gunman loose on campus grounds
50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
Emergency response plan
Percent of schools with: Private Public
Figure 1 Security Responses of Colleges and Universities
1470 American Behavioral Scientist
may not be able to enter classrooms and other buildings, so too would potential victims be left stranded without refuge if stalked by the shooter.
2. Adopt an emergency mass notification and communications system. It is vital that a college or university be able to communicate quickly and effectively with its entire community in the event of an emergency in order to notify everyone about the situa- tion and to relay critical information regarding the event. Nearly all of the reports prescribed that every campus should have an emergency communications alerting system to provide information on the nature of an emergency and action to be taken.
Judging from the Reader’s Digest survey results (see Figure 1), the vast majority of schools around the country have invested in mass notification systems. These devices range from low-tech alarms and sirens that signal an emergency of some unspecified kind to high-tech electronic text alerts and digital message boards that can provide detailed information. Whereas installation of such mass notification systems seems incontrovertible, the effectiveness of these measures depends entirely upon how they are implemented and the anticipation of foreseeable limitations. For example, many students do not voluntarily provide schools with their personal cell phone numbers (see Foster, 2007). And even when students do provide their contact information, how effective can a text alert system be when many faculty members require their students to turn off cell phones during class? In addition, many schools have some bunker-like classrooms in the basements of old buildings where cell service does not reach. Because newer technology often has such drawbacks and limitations, many colleges combine high-tech methods with low-tech ones in an attempt to ensure that emergency messages get through (Foster, 2007). For example, a siren might be used to prompt students to check their cell phones for text messages regarding an emergency on campus.
Even larger issues surround when and how to launch an alert. In one recent incident, students at the University of Iowa franticly ran for cover following a campuswide text alert informing them about an active shooter nearby. It turns out that “nearby” was actually many miles away on the opposite side of town, posing very little threat to the campus. In another incident that occurred a few years ago, public safety officials at St. Johns University in New York City notified all its students and staff about a possible gunman spotted on campus wearing a Fred Flintstone mask and toting a .50-caliber rifle. What they failed to mention was which of its three campus locations the possible gunman was at—Queens, Staten Island, or Manhattan—thereby causing unnecessary panic at the unaffected locations (see Hoover & Lipka, 2007).
By virtue of the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, college campuses must publicize their emergency response plans (Lederman, 2008). Fortunately, a provision of the act that did not pass was the requirement that colleges launch a notification within 30 minutes of word of an emergency. Given how fluid and unreliable at times such early information can be, critics of this provision were rightly concerned about the potential “cry wolf” effect.
Fox, Savage / Mass Murder Goes to College 1471
3. Establish a multidisciplinary team to respond to threats and other dangerous behaviors. Many of the reports recommended that schools establish a multidisci- plinary team, most commonly referred to as the Threat Assessment Team (TAT). This is a standing group whose purpose is to receive and assess all reports of threats and other alarming behaviors by any student or employee of the college or univer- sity. If it determines that a threat to self or others exists, the TAT plans a course of action for managing the case and continues to implement this plan over time until it is determined that the threat no longer exists. The TAT should consist of representa- tives from the administration, law enforcement, mental health, faculty, student ser- vices, legal counsel, and human resources functions.
A TAT can be extremely helpful in identifying potential problem students and guiding them toward the help they need (see Deisinger, Randazzo, O’Neill, & Savage, 2008). Not only can early identification and intervention help to avert violence on campus, but it can also help prevent other negative outcomes such as suicide and alcohol/drug abuse. However, special care must be taken not to overreact to relatively harmless, although disturbing, behaviors. The TAT must be careful to consider all the pieces of the puzzle, including the context in which behaviors occurred, before coming to conclusions. In addition, it is important for TAT members not to confuse threat assessment with other approaches that are commonly used for predicting violence, such as profiling. Unlike threat assessment, which is based on concrete evidence (i.e., an individual’s behavior), profiling compares the characteristics of an individual to that of a “prototypical” case to predict the likelihood of future violence (Reddy et al., 2001). In the aftermath of a shooting, we inevitably search for clues—with 20/20 hindsight, of course—that may have alerted the campus to a student who was profoundly suicidal or bent on revenge. Yet predicting rare events, such as a campus shooting, is virtually impossible. The rate of false positives—those who fit a behavioral profile yet do not act out—is exceedingly high. Thousands of college students exhibit warning signs—yellow flags that only turn red after the blood spills. Thus, it is highly important not to try to predict these rare events but, rather, to assess the evidence presented by each individual presented to the TAT on a case-by-case basis.
The dilemma relates to how to interpret and handle disturbing or bizarre behavior. Overaggressiveness in trying to identify and coerce a troubled and belligerent student or employee into treatment can potentially intensify feelings of persecution and precipitate the very violent act that we are trying to avert. That TAT must decide on an appropriate course of action on an individual basis; there is no single response that will work for everyone. Moreover, as with the shooter at Northern Illinois, the warning signs are not necessarily obvious, if even present.
Finally, whereas threat assessment can be highly effective, it should not be the only method of violence prevention utilized by an institution. It is intended and helpful for only a portion of the types of violence that occur on campuses. TATs should be only one part of a comprehensive violence prevention program implemented on college and university campuses.
1472 American Behavioral Scientist
4. Train personnel regarding privacy matters associated with such regulations as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The issue of student privacy is a frequent cause of concern for academic administrators across the nation. With college students, in particular, as they are no longer minors, there is a host of thorny privacy issues related to HIPAA and FERPA that govern such information. Campus officials need to be clear on the allowances and limits of federal and state regulations. Underutilizing available information on students carries the potential for significant costs—both in human and fiscal terms. Overreaching, however, can also impact the level of trust on campus as well as create the potential for costly and time-consuming litigation.
There is much confusion about what information can be shared between schools and between entities within the same school (see Van der Werf, 2007). Oftentimes, it is assumed that HIPAA and FERPA prohibit all information sharing about students when, in fact, they both provide broad exceptions for health and safety concerns. For example, “in an emergency, FERPA permits school officials to disclose without student consent education records, including personally identifiable information from those records, to protect the health or safety of students or other individuals” (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators [NASPA], 2008). Any confusion should be addressed and clarified in the educational environment so that information necessary to assess properly the risks and to safeguard campuses may be obtained. Many of the published reports properly recommended that private information holders should be trained regarding the limits of legal privacy and be familiar with the circumstances under which information can be shared.
There currently is a movement in at least some state legislatures to dismantle the privacy shield by mandating mental heath privacy waivers from all incoming college students. Generally, however, the level of risk of campus violence does not trump sacred rights of privacy.
5. Have an MOU with local health agencies and other key partners in the com- munity. To respond adequately in an emergency situation, colleges and universities will need to call on resources in their community, including mental health providers and law enforcement agencies. Indeed, the availability of mental health services as a supplement to those offered on campus may be critical to preventing violence as well. Therefore, it is critical that institutions of higher education establish formal or informal relationships with these outside agencies and private vendors, so that they can be drawn upon quickly and efficiently when needed.
6. Practice emergency plans and conduct training. It is not sufficient for a col- lege or university simply to have an ERP in place. To be prepared for an emergency situation, reports recommended that schools practice and train for these plans. National survey data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see Reaves, 2008) reveal that the campus police departments at many schools, including community col- leges, maintain various approaches to emergency preparedness activities. Half of
Fox, Savage / Mass Murder Goes to College 1473
the 2-year schools and two thirds of the 4-year colleges engage in emergency pre- paredness exercises.
A number of colleges are preparing for the worst by engaging in active shooter role-playing drills. Some, quite reasonably, are involving only campus security and local authorities in training drills undertaken during school vacation. Others, not so wisely, are involving the students in their tactical exercises. Some students volunteer as victims, lying still in pools of ketchup, while others huddle in corners waiting out the realistic drama. But given the incredibly low risk, it may not be worth the potential emotional trauma.
It is one thing to train and prepare security personnel for handling an active shooter emergency. However, given the limited risk of such an event, it is unwise, potentially traumatizing, and simply counterproductive for students to be included in such tactical drills.
7. Educate and train students, faculty, and staff about mass notification systems and their roles and responsibilities in an emergency. Many campuses use mass noti- fication systems, but these will have limited effectiveness if students, faculty, and staff are not aware that they exist, are not registered in the system, or do not under- stand how they work. For this reason, many reports recommended that students, faculty, and staff should be educated about the mass notification system and what to do in an emergency. Student orientations and faculty/staff training sessions provide excellent opportunities to familiarize the campus community with these and other emergency response procedures.
Some schools, however, are taking student preparation a step further. New to the curriculum at many colleges is instruction for students in survival skills. This training is not surrounding useful and practical advice on note taking, studying for exams, and dealing with professors. Rather, a new security video, produced and distributed by a security consulting firm especially for students, demonstrates tips and techniques on how to survive an active shooter attack on campus, and has been adopted by many colleges to prepare for a potential rampage (see Fox, 2008a). This step is understandable, given the strong pressures that colleges and universities face from worried parents who want some assurance that their children will be safe at college. Indeed, about 500 colleges and universities throughout the country purchased the video within months of its release (Perez, 2008). However, it is important to consider the potential negative side effects of this type of preparation. Although some parents and students may simply view the tips as helpful, others may interpret this preparation as an indication of a high risk of violence at the particular college or university. Indeed, they might think, “If they’re suggesting that I watch this video, then there must be a good chance of this actually happening here.” Of course, in reality, the likelihood of an active shooter event on a college or university campus is remarkably low. Although a video on how to act during such an event might allay the fears of some, it might serve to heighten the fears of others. It is important that institutions of higher education take
1474 American Behavioral Scientist
these issues into consideration before promoting these and/or other similar resources that are now available for teaching students how to survive a school shooting.
Higher Education Versus High School
The recommendations discussed here were set forth by task forces focused on preventing shootings at colleges and universities. Just as some of these steps would not necessarily be appropriate at middle and high schools, various steps being adopted by middle/high schools throughout the nation are not necessarily appropriate for institutions of higher education. There are important distinctions between these two types of schools and the shootings that occur there, including the age and motivation of the shooter, as well as the surrounding environment.
Although the Virginia Tech massacre may have been the largest school shooting in American history, arguably the 1999 Columbine tragedy, commemorated by this special issue, was the watershed event in terms of national consciousness about school violence. It is important, therefore, that we note the many distinctions between middle/high schools and colleges/universities in terms of both the nature of the episodes and the appropriate measures for improving security.
Common safety and security measures adopted by middle schools and high schools include physical access control (i.e., locks on building doors during school hours), requiring faculty and staff to wear ID badges, random searches for drugs, and using security cameras to monitor the school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Nearly 11% of high schools use random metal detector checks on students (see also Addington [2009 (this issue)] for a discussion of metal detectors and other “visible” security measures adopted by schools since Columbine). Lockdown plans have also become increasingly common among high schools, with many schools conducting lockdown drills (Higgins, 2008). Because these schools are typically housed in a single building where entrances and exits are easily controlled, these measures are certainly feasible—whether or not they are reasonable based on an assessment of risk. Colleges and universities, however, are usually spread across sprawling campuses that include multiple buildings. As mentioned earlier, attempting to lock down an entire college campus is impractical, if not impossible. In addition, security measures for colleges and universities should in part be governed by the community’s desire for a free and open campus. Colleges and universities offer unique challenges to security because the nature of their existence depends upon a free flow of individuals and expression. Care must be taken not to reinforce exaggerated perceptions of vulnerability. Indeed, it is critical not to promote fear and anxiety while attempting to reduce risk. Thus, whereas tight security measures might be appropriate for middle and high schools where students generally have no choice of attendance, the same approach on a college campus could create an environment so distasteful to student prospects as to encourage them to look for options elsewhere.
Fox, Savage / Mass Murder Goes to College 1475
In addition, the issues that motivate campus shooters and their younger counterparts are vastly different. Shootings at high schools are often precipitated when students feel bullied or persecuted by their classmates and/or teachers (Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borun, & Modzeleski, 2004). However, the perpetrators of mass shootings at colleges and universities are often graduate students—older individuals who turn to violence in response to what they perceive to be unbearable pressure to succeed or the unacceptable reality of failure. Indeed, the most striking fact pattern among campus shootings is the disproportionate involvement of graduate students as perpetrators. Of the 14 fatal multiple shootings in the United States since 1990 (see Table 2), 8 were committed by current or former graduate, law, medical, or nursing students, compared to 3 by more traditional undergraduates and 3 by outsiders.
We are a professional custom writing website. If you have searched a question and bumped into our website just know you are in the right place to get help in your coursework.
Yes. We have posted over our previous orders to display our experience. Since we have done this question before, we can also do it for you. To make sure we do it perfectly, please fill our Order Form. Filling the order form correctly will assist our team in referencing, specifications and future communication.
2. Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER INFORMATION" section and click “PRICE CALCULATION” at the bottom to calculate your order price.
3. Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
4. Click “FINAL STEP” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
5. From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.
Need this assignment or any other paper?
Click here and claim 25% off
Discount code SAVE25