Many were amazed to hear last night (Wednesday, Aug. 17), and with more detail this morning, about the teen arrested in Tampa, FL, for plotting to use homemade bombs at his high school.
The 17-year-old student, Jared Cano, who was disgruntled over being expelled from his school, stated his goal was to create a larger carnage than Columbine (note: the massacre at the Columbine High school in Colorado in 1999, left 12 dead and 21 injured after two armed students went on a shooting rampage at the school. To date, Columbine is the deadliest of all high school attacks).
This incident is the last in a list that dates as far back as 1929, when the first shooting at an elementary school took place in Bath, Michigan, leaving 38 dead and 58 injured.
Add to the list other incidents like the Amish school in Pennsylvania, Virginia Tech University, Baily High School in Colorado—and the list goes on and on—and one can see that the threat is real and only getting larger.
Please note the above incidents do not include events outside the US, such as the Beslan School massacre in Russia were more than 300 students were killed and thousands injured, or the events of the Ma'alot children home in Israel.
Why are schools such targets to begin with?
Well, the answer has to do with two basic parameters: the assailants and the target.
This is the easier to explain. Schools are designed to be accessible, welcoming, and open spaces. This by design makes schools what we describe as a "Soft Target." Potential disgruntled students, terrorists, criminals, and others seek to attack what would provide them the highest level of success.
When picking a target a school is easier to access than some workplaces for example. Open gates, wide hallways, and no security makes schools the perfect target.
Although worldwide events demonstrate that the violent acts at schools can be the result of terrorism, crime, or disgruntled individuals, fortunately (and I use the term loosely) the events that took place in the United States are typically the result of one or two individuals who hold a grudge, who may or may not be in touch with reality.
Nevertheless, these individuals represent a true risk. They have shown the ability to obtain weapons and explosives, are trained (consider video games where this individuals get to shoot at target, think in tactical manner, and get points for it!), and have a twisted view of reality.
So what can we do about it? The response is divided into several factors: School security, event response, and in-home monitoring.
Let me explain. It is unfortunate that we have to think this way, but in the 21st century, with a global war on terrorism, and an increase of violence against children, it is only a matter of time until a large-scale terror attack takes place against a school.
As matter of fact, the Beslan, Russia massacre was largely sponsored by Al Qaeda and many suggest that was the case because it was to be a "dress rehearsal" for the true event that would take place in the US.
But how do we combat that? Well, for one we can do what Israel does, and that is to have an armed security guard at every school. Remember, we must "harden the target," make it less appealing to a potential terrorist, and if an when something happen, an armed guard would be able to address it before any police officer would even arrive.
The Virginia Tech incident was over in 7 minutes. No matter how good of a SWAT team is around, it can not mobilize and effectively address the threat that quickly.
Many would think that armed guards are excessive. Maybe so. Then maybe arming the teachers is a better option. One of the reasons that Virginia Tech did not cost a higher toll was because a student and a teacher fought back. It cost them their lives, but saved that of many others. If the teacher was armed, could he have put an end to the incident? Very possibly.
Other options include better access security and control, training, metal detectors, and the like.
Politically correctness and public views would most likely prevent any of the above to take place ... that is until something happens. Unfortunately, as a society, we are reactive rather than proactive. However, be that as it may, we can increase chances of surviving a violent incident by making the response to the event better.
A few things we can do to survive a school shooting include: Make sure the school has policies in place, including evacuation and lock down procedures. Make sure the policies account for secondary devices that may be placed at rally points. Is there a mass communication system in place to notify students, teachers and parents of what is going on? And lastly, do you as an individual have a plan? Do you know where you would go? Or where you would meet up with your family in the midst of chaos? Are you taking steps to enhance your own safety?
Last factor to consider as mentioned above is home monitoring. Jared Cano was apprehended due to the vigilance of others who notified the police. Keep an eye on those around you, and when things seem out of the ordinary notify someone.
Did you know that recently, in front of the Senate, various medical, psychiatric, and educational, and social science professionals testified that the only factor that has changed over the past few decades—across all nations, cultures and races is violece on TV and video games. It's also is the only factor that can be directly linked to the increase in violence is violence.
I love TV. I don't say eliminate it. I do say, take your child to a playground every once in a while, play sports with your child, go to the zoo. And when you get a chance check: www.takethechallengenow.net and see what schools have found that happens when TV is turned off for three to four days: Lower anger issues, lower obesity rates, lower violence, lower aggression, and higher academic results!
Take the steps needed to prevent the next attack at your school, and to be better prepared if it happens.
Tzviel 'BK' Blankchtein
Blankchtein was born and raised in Israel where, at 18 he began serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, in a counter-intelligence and counterterrorism unit. For four years he has been teaching self-defense at his studio, Masada Tactical, in Pikesville. He teaches most age groups, first responders in Pikesville and surrounding areas, as well as first responders and hospital staff throughout the country.