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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
School shootings warning signs
Columbine
The secret service says school attacks are not "impulsive"
School shootings are not spontaneous outbursts - and there are usually signs of impending violence, says research in the United States.

This suggests that there might be time for schools and parents to recognise the warning signs and intervene before youngsters carry out acts of violence.

In the wake of a series of traumatic school shootings in the United States, including the murder of 12 pupils and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999, there has been much research into how such incidents can be averted.

Secret service
The secret service has applied its risk assessment skills to school shootings

This study, carried out by a branch of the Secret Service, has analysed 37 school shooting incidents and has determined that none of these were "impulsive" actions.

"It was not a case of a kid getting up in the morning and saying, 'I'm going to take a gun to school today and shoot somebody','' said Bryan Vossekuil, co-director of the Secret Service's Safe School Initiative.

Advance warning

The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting the life of US presidents, has been using its risk assessment expertise to identify the type of students who turn guns on their classmates.

The research says that there is no single "typical" school shooter, but there are patterns which might alert adults to potential risks.

"In almost all the cases, these kids told somebody else about their ideas," said Mr Vossekuil.

This advance warning from students who were planning attacks could provide an opportunity for somebody to act before violent ideas are escalated into actions.

Pupils at risk of becoming violent are also likely to have drawn themselves to the attention of teachers or other pupils, whether because of their behaviour or some other incident.

And the study found that a majority of students who attacked other students had previously complained of being bullied.

Altogether the research presents a profile of school shootings as the culmination of a problem that has built up over time, rather than a sudden angry reaction.

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See also:

26 May 00 | Americas
When children kill
21 May 99 | Americas
New gun law follows school shooting
21 Apr 00 | Americas
Columbine marks tragedy
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