Perspective of the Shooter

We’ve been deep in conversation at Joffe regarding perspectives during crises at a school. We’ve discussed the student’s perspective and the importance of building confidence in faculty and leadership, especially in the midst of an emergency surrounded by students. We’ve talked about the importance of the parent perspective and the reality that they’ll never be fully pleased, but your ability to reunite them with their child in an expedient and safe way will heavily influence whether their child comes back to school when you reopen. We’ve talked about the Board and their legitimate yet frustrating fear of liability and need to ensure you’re adhering to best practices, while not always having been as supportive of the need to prepare proactively for an emergency.

But there’s still one perspective we haven’t discussed yet – the cause of the crisis.

Take a look at this TED Talk given by Sue K., mother of one of the students at the helm of the Columbine Shooting, which literally opened the conversation for America about school-based violence. In her opening lines, she discusses a desire for empathy – not for her son, but for herself. She has been working to forgive herself for “missing the signs” – just as we all might do after a tragedy on a campus. This video sparks an important dialogue about how we provide counsel to the student, employee, or stranger who might inflict “crisis” on our campuses.

Let’s take it out of the extremes for a moment. A student brings a weapon to campus. How do you plan to work with that student in a way that they can return to school? How can you terminate an employee without creating the humiliation that we now know can lead to post-termination anger, resentment, and, at times, tragic action?

Now, let’s go back to the extremes for a moment. Is there a way to build a culture, community, and resilience so strong that you can actually identify issues prior to their occurrence?

My hope is that you draw from this three things:

  1. A dialogue with yourself about the importance of holding yourself accountable for what you can and do know, but a willingness to forgive yourself for being human.
  2. A willingness to take action – specifically, a willingness to open a dialogue with your community about the importance of identifying threats, create a threat assessment team, and a willingness to create a culture that identifies potential red flags.
  3. A strategy to take those red flags and take action upon them. Appropriate, proactive action taken in response to threats is incredibly difficult, but indeed possible.

Below are a handful of the most common events that SHOULD prompt activation of your threat assessment team, a review of the event and the member of the community, support for that person and protection of the rest of the community.

  • Expulsion
  • Employee termination
  • Restraining order placement (not against the school, but among two or more parents of a student)
  • Any loss of life in the immediate community or the secondary community (sibling, parent, etc.)
  • Disciplinary action
  • Social media threats
  • Off-campus bullying

Take action by forming a threat assessment team today. If you’d like to learn more about threat assessment teams or need assistance, feel free to contact us at We’re fully dedicated to empowering organizations to build safer communities, and that includes our blog readers!


Chris Joffe

Chief Executive Officer