Awareness and concern about preventing campus violence has increased in recent years, in the wake of a number of high profile incidents in middle, secondary, and post-secondary schools. Campus violence, specifically homicide, in fact occurs infrequently. College students are less likely to be victims of violent crime than are non-college students of comparable ages. When violence does occur, perpetrators typically don’t just “snap,” contrary to media portrayals. Most perpetrators (over 75 percent) consider, plan, and prepare before engaging in violent behavior. And most (over 75 percent) discuss their plans with others before the attack.
Violent acts are usually the end point of long, identifiable trails of problems, conflicts, and struggles. We cannot know whether to be concerned about a student’s risk of violence by the student’s appearance, but we can be alerted by his or her behavior. Most perpetrators of violence (about 90 percent) concern several other people with troubling behavior before their attacks. Most are in despair or suicidal prior to their attacks. (However, most students who feel desperate or suicidal do not have thoughts of harming others. Only a small subset of suicidal students is also homicidal.)
Violence is a product of interaction among three factors:
Early identification of someone at risk for committing violence is critical to violence prevention. Others will often hear about or observe the person’s ideas and plans for violence before harm can occur. It is the responsibility of anyone in the Luther community who observes warning signs for violence to pay attention to those signs and to report them to Luther staff members who can intervene in the situation.