The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the School District of Lee County held a presentation Saturday on how parents can prevent — and respond to — active shooting threats.
About 100 people came out to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on the Florida Southwestern State College campus in Fort Myers for the presentation, where education and law enforcement officials spoke on how to spot at-risk individuals, as well as the necessity of early intervention, communication and what to do in the event of a crisis.
“Mass casualty shootings are highly preventable when pre-incident behavior is noticed and acted upon,” said Rick Parfitt, director of safety and security for the Lee County School District.
A common misconception is that acts of mass violence are a result of a person “snapping,” but it’s not true, he said.
There is a clear “pathway to violence” that that intent on committing a mass killing tends to follow.
Although there is no useful profile of a mass shooter, there is behavior that can be identified as potentially threatening, Parfitt said.
One primary way to spot an at-risk individual is through statements that reference an intent to harm, also known as “leakage.”
Leakage occurs when a person reveals clues to feelings, thoughts or fantasies toward violence, which include subtle threats, boasts, innuendos, predictions or ultimatums.
Other signs include a change in your child’s behavior; if they show persistent anger, physical aggression, slipping grades, “contextually inappropriate firearms behavior,” and a fascination with mass-murderers.
“Most (people who committed mass killings) have demonstrated something concerning enough that should have been recognized,” Parfitt said.
The primary way to stop these incidents is to catch that behavior and deescalate the situation. “We need a cultural shift in recognizing and reporting suspicious behavior,” he said.
Parents and students who recognize these patterns of behavior are encouraged to report them to school and law enforcement officials so they can decide how to step in and handle the situation.
In almost 80 percent to 90 percent of school shootings, at least one person had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning their attack, according to LCSO staff officer Scott Griffith.
Griffith spoke on the importance of educating your children on what to do in the event of a mass shooting.
He also conducted a lively presentation on how to defend yourself with anything from a set of keys to a fire extinguisher.
“More often than not, you freeze,” Griffith said. So it is important to educate and practice what to do in the event of a tragedy such as the one that occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
It is best to start educating your children on such matters when they’re as young as 8 years old, according to Lori Brooks, Director of School Counseling and Mental Health Services In the event of an emergency, it is also important for parents to have a clear line of communication with the police and not react impulsively.
“In the event of a real emergency, there will be evacuation points,” Griffith said.
“We will let you know what’s happening.”