The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective

O'Toole, M.E.
Paper/Research Report
Year Published: Not Dated
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation

This report was developed from the concepts and principles develop by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in nearly 25 years of experience in threat assessment, ideas generated at a 1999 symposium on school shootings, and in depth- review of eighteen school shooting cases. The report highlights a model systematic procedure for threat assessment and intervention. The model is designed to be used by educators, mental health professionals, and law enforcement agencies. The report outlines the threat assessment standards, which provide a framework for evaluating a spoken, written, and symbolic threat, and the four-pronged assessment approach, which provides a logical, methodical process to examine the threatener and assess the risk that the threat will be carried out. The author writes that one response to the pressure for action may be an effort to identify the next shooter by developing a "profile" of the typical school shooter. According to the author, although this effort may sound like a reasonable preventive measure, the reality is that trying to draw up a catalogue or checklist of warning signs to detect a potential school shooter can be shortsighted and even dangerous. Such lists, publicized by the media, can end up unfairly labeling many nonviolent students as potentially dangerous or even lethal. The author states that, currently, there is no research that has identified traits and characteristics that can reliably distinguish school shooters from other students.

U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 7972, Washington, D.C. 20535; Telephone: (202) 324-3000, <>
Public Domain
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