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SALT LAKE CITY -- In the post-Columbine world of school security, can law enforcement or school officials take any threat lightly? The events at Roy High School on January 26, cause us to re-examine this question.
Reading the posted comments at ksl.com, several who know the two young men involved say they would never have acted upon their plan. The comments eerily echo the comments about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold following the Columbine High School shootings. Incidentally, explosive devices were also a part of their plan.
The reports of the Roy High School incident would seem to indicate long-term planning, with deliberate mapping by the two boys of the school's security systems. Text messages were sent to friends. Again, all these actions echo the actions prior to the incident at Columbine.
A Secret Service study of incidents of targeted violence in schools concluded the following:
•The attacks were rarely impulsive; 75 percent planned the attack.
•The attacks were the end result of a series of events that to the attacker seemed logical and inevitable.
•Often the planning of the attack consumed almost all the attacker’s time and energy to the point of obsession.
•Most of the attackers held a grievance at the time of the attack.
•Most had actually told a peer that “something would happen.”
As it has been reported, most of these elements were present in the actions of the two young men in custody.
Could this all have been a colossally ill-considered flight of fantasy on the part of two young men who failed to consider the consequences of their action? Yes, that is possible.
Equally, could this have been a well-conceived plan for the attack on a high school assembly by two frustrated and resolute individuals? Yes, that is possible as well.
And therein lays the quandary.
Can a school afford to take a threat of this nature as no big deal? To do so would be to put all the students in the school at risk. At school every threat must be treated as if it is real. Following Columbine, there is no other responsible choice.
Guy is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Guy has been married for 26 years and has three children.