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Chardon High School shooting: what we've learned since Columbine

Despite the horrific events of the day, the Indicators of School Crime and Safety report puts recent school-related violent deaths at an all-time low since it began tracking them in 1992. 

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Since Columbine, there have been others, although some of the most prominent and deadly – at Virginia Tech in 2007 and at Northern Illinois University in 2008 – were on college campuses, with older gunmen. Another particularly deadly incident occurred in Red Lake, Minn., on the Indian reservation there, when a 16-year-old boy killed 7 and wounded 5 at his high school, before killing himself.

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“There do seem to be fewer [shootings], but the shift we’ve seen in the past few years has been more around the lone-wolf actor,” says Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm that specializes in school safety.

The common threads in today’s shootings, says Mr. Trump, often include a lone shooter who may not have given many indicators of what he is planning, undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues, and ballooning social media that can make it tougher for administrators and others to keep on top of any warning signs that do exist.

In the Chardon incident, Trump says there are already rumors that there may have been indicators on Twitter the night before the shooting, though nothing has been confirmed. But in other cases, he says, Twitter and Facebook are often where indicators surface.

One of the more recent school shootings also occurred in Northern Ohio, when a 14-year-old student at Cleveland’s SuccessTech Academy shot and wounded two fellow students and two teachers before killing himself.

A more recent incident that gained significant media attention occurred in Marinette, Wis., when a 15-year-old left his classroom to get guns from his locker, and returned to hold his class hostage for several hours. During a standoff with police, he shot himself in the head.

Despite the seeming decline in shootings, Trump says he’s concerned about several factors that could lead to more incidents in the future: the current focus on bullying rather than diagnosing and treating mental illness; the cut in funding for training and school safety programs; and the fact that the current generation of students and administrators – most of whom weren’t around when Columbine occurred – may have grown complacent.

“You add up those factors and it’s the perfect storm to start this whole cycle back up again,” says Trump.

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