On Feb. 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked into an unlocked door at Stoneman Douglas High School, where he shot 34 people: 14 students and three staff members. Of these, 17 were injured and 17 were killed. It only took six minutes and four seconds.
Hiram Tabler, School Security Institute Regional Representative with the State of Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, gave an active shooter presentation to Ninnekah School staff at Ninnekah First Baptist Church on Monday.
Tabler referenced the Parkland school shooting to discuss what went wrong in Florida in 2018. He reviewed what led up to the shooting—including the behavioral warning signs of the shooter—as well as what can be learned from the incident.
According to Tabler, Cruz had several incidents of animal cruelty, possession of weapons and statements about killing people and/or shooting up his school, prior to the shooting. Local law enforcement and the school were aware he had problems. Tabler describes Cruz’s mother as an enabler.
Students with the potential to become an active shooter often bring their problems before they bring a weapon.
While Tabler said their is no set profile for an active shooter, an anti-social personality combined with a major loss and depression is a high prediction of youth violence. Cruz’s mother died of pneumonia a few months before the shooting.
Warning signs of a troubled student may include a history of violence, substance abuse, mental illness, negative family dynamics or isolation.
Conflict mediation, intervention programs for troubled students and a strong anti-bullying campaign may be helpful in creating a safe school environment, Tabler said.
He advised that schools survey students, faculty and parents to assess the school’s emotional climate.
There is also the issue of helping students feel comfortable about breaking the “code of silence.” Tabler said students may know who is carrying a weapon in their backpack.
Students may also feel empowered if they are a part of planning, creating and sustaining a school environment of safety and respect.
Tabler said students who feel alienated may benefit from mentorship. According to Tabler, “Adolescents who have a sense of belonging somewhere can often endure the alienation felt elsewhere” … “even one close relationship with a mentor is usually sufficient to prevent suicide or negative self-identity.”
The Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security has made recommendations to increase school security. This includes updating the processes for threat assessments, limiting entry and exit points, restricting visitors and keeping classroom doors locked.
Tabler said security cameras are mostly used after the fact, as there is rarely a person staffed to monitor the footage.
He recommended that schools regularly hold tours with their law enforcement and fire departments so that these entities are familiar with the layout of the school.
An active shooter situation may take place in a school, in a public setting or a business—the latter being most common, Tabler said.
Those who find themselves in this scary situation can remember to run, hide or fight.
If possible, exiting the situation should be the first course of action. This may mean running from the immediate danger to hide at a secure location that can be locked down. At a school, students or teachers may lock themselves in a classroom and stay within the corners, away from windows. Cell phones should be silenced and the door should be barricaded if possible.
While waiting for the shooting to end, which is usually over in 10 to 15 minutes, those hiding should stay silent, Tabler said.
When police arrive, Tabler said to keep in mind that officers may not yet know who the shooter is or how many there are. Civilians should follow commands, keep their hands visible and avoid making sudden movements.
Those who have questions about increasing school security or who need advice addressing a related school violence situation may call the School Security Institute at 405-425-7330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To report an incident, call the School Security Tipline at 855-337-8300 or visit www.tipline.ok.gov.