Checklist of Characteristics of Youth Who Have Caused School-Associated Violent Deaths

The National School Safety Center offers the following checklist derived from tracking school-associated violent deaths in the United States from July 1992 to the present. After studying common characteristics of youngsters who have caused such deaths, NSSC has identified the following behaviors, which could indicate a youth’s potential for harming him/herself or others.

Accounts of these tragic incidents repeatedly indicate that in most cases, a troubled youth has demonstrated or has talked to others about problems with bullying and feelings of isolation, anger, depression and frustration. While there is no foolproof system for identifying potentially dangerous students who may harm themselves and/or others, this checklist provides a starting point.

These characteristics should serve to alert school administrators, teachers, and support staff to address needs of troubled students through meetings with parents, provision of school counseling, guidance and mentoring services, as well as referrals to appropriate community health/social services and law enforcement personnel. Further, such behavior should also provide an early warning signal that safe school plans and crisis prevention/intervention procedures must be in place to protect the health and safety of all school students and staff members so that schools remain safe
havens for learning.

  1. History of tantrums and uncontrollable angry outbursts

  2. Characteristically resorts to name calling, cursing, or abusive language

  3. Habitually makes violent threats when angry

  4. Previously brought a weapon to school

  5. Background of serious disciplinary problems at school and in the community

  6. Background of drug, alcohol, or other substance abuse or dependency

  7. On the fringe of his/her peer group with few or no close friends

  8. Preoccupied with weapons, explosives, or other incendiary devices

  9. Previously truant, suspended, or expelled from school

  10. Displays cruelty to animals

  11. Little or no supervision/support from parents or caring adult

  12. Witness or victim of abuse or neglect in the home

  13. Bullied and/or bullies or intimidates peers or younger children

  14. Tends to blame others for difficulties and problems s/he causes her/himself

  15. Consistently prefers TV shows, movies, or music expressing violent themes and acts

  16. Prefers reading materials dealing with violent themes, rituals, and abuse

  17. Reflects anger, frustration, and the dark side of life in school essays or writing projects

  18. Involved with a gang or an antisocial group on the fringe of peer acceptance

  19. Often depressed and/or has significant mood swings

  20. Threatened or attempted suicide

Developed by the National School Safety Center © 1998. Dr. Ronald D. Stephens, Executive Director, 141 Dusenberg Drive, Suite 11, Westlock Village, CA 91362; phone: 805-373-9977; fax: 805-373-9277. Reprinted with permission.


Originally published in the 1999 Spring issue of The CampLine.

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