5 Warning Signs of a Potential School Shooter

File photo courtesy National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The leader of a security consulting and risk management firm has released an advisory that includes warning signs of a school shooter, noting that in the wake of more school reopenings, school shootings will inevitably resurface.

A tragic reminder of this is the incident on Monday at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, in which police responded to a report of a person with a gun at the school. According to a news release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, officers located the student who was suspected of being armed in a restroom and ordered him to come out. He reportedly refused to comply, police entered the restroom, the student fired at police and struck an officer, the officer returned fire, and the student was pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident has been described by a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officer as an “officer-involved shooting at a school” rather than a “school shooting.” Still, with many school campuses once again open for in-person instruction, this can serve as an example of the heightened need to be alert to warning signs of a potential school shooter.

According to Johnathan Tal, CEO of TAL Global, an international corporate security and risk management firm, the U.S. Secret Service is developing a profile of a school shooter.

"What they are finding is that school shooters invariably display warning signs," Tal says in the advisory.  "It's noticing these warning signs ahead of time that can prevent a disaster."

According to Tal, indicators the Secret Service has uncovered include these warning signs:

  1. Someone who discusses their intentions with others.

    "Some school shooters have shared their plans with school mates, even telling them what day and time they are planning their rampage," Tal says.
  2. Students who share their fascination with school shootings or shootings in general, in person or online.
  3. Someone seeking fame or revenge after being mocked by other students or teachers.
  4. People who are depressed, display harassing behavior, or have suicidal thoughts that they share with others.
  5. A suspected student who is absent from school.

    "Many students report they will be absent from school on the day they plan their shooting rampage," Tal says.

“What we must remember is that while these shootings invariably seem impulsive, often the shooter has researched their targets and even documented their plans in writing,” he adds. “The signs are typically there; we just have to pay attention."

About the author
Nicole Schlosser

Nicole Schlosser

Former Executive Editor

Nicole was an editor and writer for School Bus Fleet. She previously worked as an editor and writer for Metro Magazine, School Bus Fleet's sister publication.

View Bio