School shootings are so common in the United States law enforcement has compiled “threat assessments” meant to help identify people considering violent acts and intervene before they’re carried out.

The Secret Service published one such study after reviewing 41 targeted school attacks that occurred between 2008 and 2017.  It concluded the majority of attackers had similar characteristics including: They had communicated their intent, experienced stressors in recent years, exhibited concerning behavior and had an interest in violent behavior.

“Rarely did they make a direct threat but their behavior concerned others, which is most important for a threat assessment and we recommended the establishment of threat assessment teams for school boards across the county,” said Matt Doherty, the former head of the National Threat Assessment Center who now is now the managing director of workforce risk management for Sikich. “You can’t predict violence – it’s all about prevention.”

Read the secret service school violence study (pdf)

The Secret Service study found:

  • 61% of attackers had a grievance with the school, usually they were the subject of bullying
  • 61% of school attackers used a gun, of those 68% got the weapon within a week of carrying-out the shooting
  • 83% of school attacks lasted less than 5 minutes
  • 66% of schools where attacks were carried out had full or part-time school resource officers

The National Threat Assessment Center report concluded: “Targeted school violence is preventable when communities identify warning signs and intervene.”