Safety Q & A
What supports are offered for students currently?
We know that many school shooting incidents are done by students who are dealing with severe social and emotional issues. The school district offers a wide range of counseling services to help students with their emotional needs. Those services include:
- We provide five counselors at both Kamiak and Mariner high schools, plus three each at Voyager and Explorer middle schools, two each at Harbour Pointe and Olympic View middle schools, and one at ACES High School.
- Elementary support specialists are available at each elementary school.
- Student support advocates are available at each of our secondary schools.
- Mental health therapists are available at each of our secondary schools.
- A program to provide mental health therapists is being piloted at two elementary schools.
- Drug and alcohol prevention/intervention services are available at several schools as well as through Compass Health and the Center for Human Services.
School district staff members also have received training to better understand the emotional and mental health needs of students and how a caring, positive relationship with an adult is essential to students. Elementary teachers have received training on trauma-informed practices and middle school teachers have received training on how to work with students who have seen trauma in their lives. Staff members at all levels are taught about the role that adverse childhood experiences have on a person throughout their life and what teachers can do to help those students. In addition, teachers can get after-school professional development on how to help children succeed.
What are some warning signs that I should look for with my child or any other person I might know?
By far the most effective way to prevent school shooting events is to stop them before they happen. A person contemplating doing such a thing almost always leaves hints, makes comments to others, or posts messages online that reveal their plan. It is critically important that if a person sees anything or hears anything that is suspicious, that they call the police or tell somebody who can do something about it.
Those who have studied the psychology of school shooters tell us that they vary greatly. Some could be classified as psychopathic in that they lack empathy for others or are sadistic. Others might be traumatized by growing up in a dysfunctional family or may have suffered abuse in their childhood. In many cases, the young people who have resorted to school shootings feel disempowered. They might feel they are not succeeding in life, perhaps failing academically, in the world of friendship, or in romance. They feel that nothing is going right for them.
There are many warning signs, and some carry more weight than others. A fascination with firearms may be more significant that being a loner, for instance. Having one or two warning signs also may not mean anything, but having many of the warning signs might mean that person could be at risk of becoming dangerous to himself or to others. Here are some characteristics that could be red flags:
- An interest in violence, either through the movies he or she watches, the games they play, the books or magazines they read, the stories they write, or the drawings they create.
- A lack of remorse. Uses violence to solve problems or abuses animals and displays no regret afterwards.
- Difficulty controlling anger and makes threats to others.
- A fascination with weapons, especially those that are used to kill people, such as machine guns, semiautomatic pistols, bombs, and special ammunition.
- Boasts about his or her fighting skills or combat proficiency.
- A loner who has no meaningful friends, is isolated, and socially withdrawn, perhaps a misfit.
- Acts depressed and expresses hopelessness and despair.
- Follows, harasses, and stalks others even though the victim expresses annoyance or demands that he or she stop.
- Makes comments or gestures that indicate violent aggression.
- Refuses to abide by written or verbal rules and doesn’t seem to understand that there are consequences to bad behavior.
- Imitates other murderers through appearance, dress, grooming, or having possessions that are like violent shooters in the past.
- Has an interest in past shooting events and is drawn to stories, books, or videos about those incidents.
- Expresses a fantasy that someday he will represent the oppressed and wreak vengeance on the oppressors.
- Does things or says things that cause others to be afraid or fearful.
- Believes that he or she has been singled out for unfair treatment or feels persecuted.
- Enjoys cruel behavior and is able to view cruelty without being disturbed.
- An inability to express or experience joy and pleasure.
Depue, Roger, Ph.D., “Red Flags, Warning Signs and Indicators.”
Deruy, Emily, “The Warning Signs of a Mass Shooting,” The Atlantic, Dec. 2, 2015.
Healy, Maureen, “School Shooter: The Warning Signs,” Psychology Today, July 20, 2012.
Langman, Peter, Ph.D., “School Shooters: The Warning Signs,” Forensic Digest, Winter-Spring 2012.
Does the Mukilteo School District have SafeSchools Alert? What’s the process and is it anonymous?
Yes. To help safeguard the school community, the school district utilizes a tip-reporting service called the SafeSchools Alert Hotline that allows students, staff members, parents, and members of the community to submit safety concerns by telephone, text, email, or through the Internet. The system can be used to report tips on bullying, harassment, drugs, or vandalism, or any other safety issue. Those calling to report an emergency advised to call 9-1-1, instead.
Every tip received will be immediately logged into the SafeSchools Alert system, which will automatically notify administrators so they can investigate and take appropriate action. Whether a tip is submitted anonymously or with a name, the person who made the tip also can check back later to see how the matter was resolved.
Can you please let me know where I can find the procedures for our Mukilteo schools in the case of an active shooter?
The procedures for response to a violent intruder event are not available to the public. If there is somebody out there who has the idea of doing something with bad intent toward our students and our schools, it’s important that they do not know the specifics of our security efforts and of our planned response to such an incident.
What are we teaching the kids? Is it different by grade?
Our schools have regular age-appropriate drills to practice the response to a variety of emergencies, such as what to do in the event of an earthquake or fire, or in conducting a lockdown when there is a potential threat outside of a school. The school district is in the process of implementing another protocol called Run-Hide-Fight that would be utilized if there is a violent intruder in a school. Run-Hide-Fight is a program that has been endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security and by most law enforcement agencies.
Run-Hide-Fight essentially teaches the students that if there is a violent intruder, it may be best to simply run away from the threat. The students are taught to follow the directions of their teacher or an administrator in finding an escape route. If escaping from the threat is not an option, then students are told to hide in a place where the intruder won’t find them. If their life is in imminent danger, then a last resort taught to older students is to try to incapacitate the intruder. That might mean throwing things at him or her, for example.
What can I do at home to teach my child(ren) about emergencies?
Talking to your kids at home is a key factor in preparedness. Making sure that your family has a plan and practicing what to do in emergencies at home will translate into readiness at school. Being able to talk to your kids about the seriousness of emergencies and listening to whoever is in charge also plays a large role while organizing and practicing preparedness during drills at school. You may find this website helpful for tips on discussing school safety with your child(ren).
What is the school district doing to ensure the physical security of schools? Are we working to control access? Do we have cameras?
School districts throughout Western Washington are struggling with this issue because many of our schools were designed and built in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s using the open-campus concept that was prevalent at the time. School districts also don’t want schools to become imposing fortresses, and instead strive to have buildings that are an inviting place for students and the community. Solutions that require construction to modify school facilities also can be expensive and would likely require the approval of a super-majority of voters in order to be funded, but even with unlimited funding, it would be impossible to make schools totally secure from violent intruders.
The most recent bond proposal considered by voters was in 2014, when voters approved a package of projects that included money for security improvements. The school district used part of that money to install more than 500 security cameras at its schools to help improve security and continues to work with consultants to find other solutions to improve the security of our school campuses. Our newest schools have incorporated some of the security ideas offered by those consultants, for example. In addition, staff members are consistently reminded to be vigilant and to question anyone who appears on campus without wearing a visitor badge.
Are there rules for staff members to carry guns?
There is a state law (RCW 9.41.280) that makes it unlawful for any person to carry onto or possess any dangerous weapons while on a school campus. The law does provide an exception to this rule for law enforcement officers, however. The Mukilteo School Board is firmly committed to all school district properties remaining gun-free zones. The only people who will be allowed to carry a gun on our campuses will be law enforcement officers.
Who do I contact if I have questions about safety and security at my school?
Please contact Cindy Steigerwald, Director of Transportation and Safety, at SteigerwaldCL@mukilteo.wednet.edu