Bullying major contributing factor to school shootings, safety expert says

February 5, 2019

In 2018, someone was hurt or killed in 23 school shootings across the country.

With school shootings part of the national culture, training for them has become routine but not second nature. Experts say there is more people need to learn.

“School safety is a comprehensive approach. It involves many different things working together, but it really all starts with the training,” said Michael Yorio, president of Wisconsin-based SSI Guardian, which teaches school leaders nationwide what they can do to protect their communities.

“We’re not trying to plug in place something that’s been done at an airport or a U.S. embassy or somewhere else. It’s made specifically for the educational environment,” said Yorio, who was in Raleigh Monday to speak with state lawmakers and because North Carolina State University offers his class through its continuing education program.

“School shootings are largely an internal threat – 95 percent of school shooters are students,” he said, noting that bullying is a primary contributing factor. “By understanding the causes, we can zone in on these things and address it at the root cause instead of trying to do things that are emotional or knee-jerk reactions, which we see in too many cases.”

Schools, faculty and students need to track social media, he said, to determine if someone may be dealing with emotional issues that need to be addressed before they lead to violence.

If a shooting does occur, Yorio said, teachers and students need to remember simple things, such as silencing their cellphones.

“Your text went off because you’re texting your parents or something. So, I know somebody is behind this door,” he said.

N.C. State students said the university does many things to make them feel safer, such as installing emergency call boxes throughout the campus and sending text alerts about crimes on or near campus.

“It’s never 100 percent secure – things can happen – but it’s good that we are trying,” student Anna Butler said.

Yorio acknowledged that a college campus is harder to protect because of its sheer size, but the same rules apply for preparation – specifically if you see something, say something.

“If something looks suspicious, whether it’s behavior or a package or something like that, you have to have the courage to report it,” he said. “We don’t want people to be paranoid, but anything outside the realm of normalcy may mean something, and it needs to be reported to the authorities.”