The U.S. Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center released a report breaking down 41 different acts of targeted school violence from 2008 to 2017. Based on their analysis, the Secret Service says some of these tragedies could have been prevented if schools had more guidance on identifying students of concern who could turn into potential attackers.
Their findings show there is no distinct profile of a student attacker or specific type of school where an attack could take place, but there are some common threads among the attacks.
The report says school officials, parents, and students who know about a distressed student can look out for these signs and potentially prevent a violent incident.
The Secret Service found student attackers usually had more than one motive, and the most common was being bullied or having a conflict with a classmate. Every single attacker in their study experienced social stressors involving relationships with their peers or romantic partners. Most attackers had conflicts in the home, were under financial stress, and had access to a firearm. The study shows many student attackers struggled with their mental health and half showed interest in violent topics.
More than half of the attackers showed either very positive academic performance or negative academic performance, but only 5 of the attackers scored average grades. Most attacks occurred in the morning and almost half of the attacks took place when the attacker came back to school after a period of absence.
The U.S. Secret Service recommends that schools implement policies to identify students of concern before their behavior escalates to a violent level.