"Warning Signs: Identifying School Shooters Before They Strike" and "The Missing Piece: Your School Resource Officer as an Ally in Parenting" received stellar reviews!
We are fortunate to have experts at our disposal whose commitment to making schools safer exceeds their responsibilities at Drift Net. Dr. Peter Langman and Dr. Beth Sanborn are not only regarded for their professional accolades as a psychologist and SRO, respectively. Their personal drive to expand our understanding of school safety has led them to both receive Ph.D's in their respective fields; an undertaking resulting in a wealth of research and discovery that we at Drift Net are able to use to develop comprehensive safety & security solutions. Fortunately for the public, their knowledge has been transcribed into published books, all available on Amazon and other online book retail sites. Dr. Langman has published 3 books regarding violence prevention and warning signs, of which we encourage all educators and school administrators to read. Much of the research provided by Dr. Langman in these books is utilized by the FBI, United States Secret Service and other security-adjacent organizations. With the publication and subsequent reviewing of Dr. Sanborn's latest book on leveraging your school's SRO's, we wanted to highlight a couple of reviews that illustrate the importance of these most recent book publications.
Dr. Peter Langman's "Warning Signs: Identifying School Shooters Before They Strike" (2021) identifies the warning signs of school shooters. Dr. Langman argues that there are a number of warning signs that can be used to identify potential school shooters and extols the importance of identifying these warning signs early on so that intervention can be provided. He also argues that it is important to remember that not all students who exhibit these warning signs will become school shooters. However, he believes that by identifying these warning signs, we can increase our chances of preventing future school shootings.
3 Reviews of "Warning Signs: Identifying School Shooters Before They Strike":
“To say that Warning Signs is a must-read doesn’t go far enough. This book should be required reading for every educator, school safety professional, and law enforcement officer in America. At a time in our history when we are faced with increased violence in our schools and communities, Dr. Langman provides a critical understanding of what we are facing and what we can do to make a difference. This book should be part of every school district’s threat management program.”
— John McDonald, Executive Director, Department
of School Safety, Jefferson County Public Schools
“Peter Langman may have more experience studying the details of school shooters’ lives than any scholar or security official working today. Every time I read Langman’s work, I learn something new about what a school shooter was thinking, writing, or saying before he attacked. By identifying patterns in their pre-attack behavior, we can increase our ability to avert these tragedies and save many innocent lives.”
— Adam Lankford, Ph.D., author of The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really
Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers
“Dr. Langman's book is like a compass for navigating the complexities of preventing the next school attack. The lessons contained in this book are a substantial contribution toward improving the safety of our nation’s schools. I wish these lessons had been learned in time to save my daughter Alaina.”
— Ryan Petty, Commissioner, Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety
Commission; Founder, WalkUp Foundation; Member, Florida Board of Education
Dr. Beth Sanborn's "The Missing Piece: Your School Resource Officer as an Ally in Parenting" discusses the role of school resource officers (SROs) in schools. Sanborn, a former SRO herself, argues that SROs can be valuable partners for parents in creating a safer and more supportive environment for all students.
A Review of "The Missing Piece: Your School Resource Officer as an Ally in Parenting" by Martin Alan Greenberg, Director of Education and Research for the New York State Association of Auxiliary Police:
Beth Sanborn’s new paperback book is about the evolving role of school resource officers (SROs) in American society. It comes at a time when national debate is still being carried out regarding the police misconduct at the time of the death, now adjudicated as murder, of George Floyd over three year ago. More recently, much public scrutiny has been given to the undue response delay during the Uvalde school massacre. But even as police conduct absolutely must be held accountable, there are daily reminders of the bravery and resolve that go into many police shifts. We should not “forget that cops have stressful and emotionally fraught jobs that require them to be everything from mental-health care providers to medics in addition to crime solvers….By many measures, policing has become more dangerous since the spring of 2020. In fact, the number of officers shot in the line of duty is up 52% from May of 2020” (Waite, 2023).
Throughout the United States new security measures at both public and private schools have increased in the wake of the horrendous loss of life taking place as a result of school shootings. The recent one year anniversary of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year old shooter killed 19 children and two teachers and injured an additional 17 people, brought about new attention to those efforts. In The White House, President Biden offered his condolences and stated “today, guns remain the number-one killer — the number-one killer of children in America. Guns” (Biden 2023). In his speech, President Biden quoted from a handwritten note he had received from a grandmother, who had lost her granddaughter during the massacre—it read: “Erase the invisible line that is dividing our nation. Come up with a solution and fix what’s broken and make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again” (qtd. in Biden 2023).
Public officials across the nation are revamping their security protocols and seeking out ways to upgrade the safety of school students. For example, although in June 2020, the Denver School Board unanimously voted to cut ties with Denver Police, following the murder of George Floyd, it is now seeking to restore the presence of school resource officers (SROs) in all of the city’s schools. In February 2023, after the shooting death of East High student Luis Garcia, 16, — who was shot in the head while he was sitting in his car on the school campus —students appeared before the Denver City Council to ask them to return SROs to Denver Public Schools. The following month, students also demonstrated in front of the state capitol to urge legislators to do something about the gun violence in schools. Chris Hansen, the current State Senator for Colorado Senate District 31 highlighted his positive experience with SROs at George Washington (GW) High School. "My experience of that at GW, and through my son, was that there were some really positive attributes to it….Students felt like they had somebody they could go to and quietly say 'I think there's gonna be a fight after school, this kid's got a knife and we think this kid's got a gun.' You have a chance for that SRO to really help improve safety in schools" (qtd. in Brambila & Nico, 2023). According to Jeremy Meyer, a Colorado Department of Education spokesperson, the number of school districts across Colorado using SROs in unknown since the state does not keep such records (Brambila & Nico, 2023).
In Arizona, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is committed to having more police officers inside the state's public schools. The state leader of schools asserted that having more "school resource officers" (SROs) are a solution to keep students safe amid a rise in mass shootings this year. “I give my first priority to school resource officers, but that doesn’t mean I’m against having counselors in the schools,” Horne said. “I think kids should have somebody to talk to when they have emotional problems” (qtd. in Loya, Dana, & Bassler, 2023).
Kentucky lawmakers in 2022 and 2023 have authorized the use of SROs. In 2022, House Bill 63 required every public school campus to have a school resource officer. In 2023, House Bill 540 provided that private and parochial schools could enter agreements with local law enforcement agencies or the department of Kentucky State Police to provide school resource officers. “Especially when we have a highly trained individual in our schools to hopefully prevent that thing we dread the most or that person we dread the most from ever walking through the doors,” Governor Beshear said (qtd. in Passmore, 2023).
Similar initiatives involving the return or new use of SROs are taking place throughout the US. Yet, with few exceptions, the media reporting on the topic has mostly focused on the law enforcement aspects of SRO work. Moreover, even when that role is addressed, it falls far short of the actual day to day responsibilities carried out by SROs. Fortunately, a new and concise work entitled The Missing Piece: Your School Resource Officer as an Ally in Parenting by Beth J. Sanborn is now available through amazon.com to address the actual responsibilities of SROs. These duties fall into three main categories—law enforcement, informal counseling, and school safety education, also known as the “SROs triad” (see: North Carolina Center, 1995; NASRO, 2023). The extent to which each activity is to be emphasized and the specific school assignments to be covered by SROs are typically addressed in a formal “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) between the concerned school district and police agency.
Dr. Sanborn, who earned her doctoral degree from West Chester University in 2019, has been a police officer for more than a quarter of a century and for seven years worked as an SRO with simultaneous assignments at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. In addition, she had responsibilities for all juvenile cases in her township of Lower Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Lower Gwynedd, located only minutes from the city of Philadelphia, is one of the oldest townships in Montgomery County. It was founded in 1698 by William Penn. Officer Sanborn is a national police trainer and youth advocate, having founded a program entitled: “Hidden, High, and Hammered” to educate parents, teachers, and social service providers about the indicators of drug use and abuse as well as the other dysfunctional lifestyle choices among youth. In order to serve in the SRO position, she completed a wide range of classes, including child development during adolescence with critical attention focused on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), the science of the teenage brain, de-escalation tactics, ethics, communication skills, how to encourage responsible decision-making, emergency operations planning, school safety, threat response, and juvenile law.
Sanborn’s book, which is divided into 17 brief chapters, provides a first-person analysis of what it means to serve as an SRO and the particular roles she performed on a daily basis. In this regard, Dr. Sanborn had a unique assignment which was also a first for her own police department. Officer Beth, as she was known by many of her school students, was able to carry out her roles and develop a program based on the needs of her school district. Her initial programming included setting-up “a mock teenage bedroom” so parents could learn about the hiding places and things used by youth to hide drug usage and other dangerous behaviors (such as eraser tips to burn their flesh by excessive rubbing or the tiny blades found in small pencil sharpeners to cut themselves). Simultaneously, visitors to the exhibit were able to meet with social service providers for guidance and assistance.
A fascinating insight made by Officer Sanborn is that her work in the schools provided a candid opportunity for her to view the attitudes students share with their peers when they think that no adults are around. This type of knowledge enabled her to contribute to the moments when other professionals and parents were looking for the missing pieces of the puzzle regarding a child in crisis. Officer Sanborn had a good deal of flexibility in making her observations during her workday. Another distinctive feature of her work, not necessarily widely appreciated, concerned the fact that her role was not limited to standing post at the entrances and perimeters of school buildings. In contrast, the work of an SRO is much more robust. In addition to serving as a positive role model, her work entailed engaging in the SRO triad. With respect to her law enforcement role, she notes that she is not merely in school to “proactively” arrest children. “That’s not what we do,…[as] the MOU clearly spells out” (see Sanborn, 2022, pp. 23-24). While there may be times when an arrest is necessary, other alternatives may be better under the “totality of circumstances” in order to resolve a particular conflict and to prevent it from happening again. For example, “an arrest won’t calm a mental health crisis. But care, treatment, supervision and other services just might” (Sanborn, 2022, p. 25). Accordingly, of the three facets of her job, Officer Sanborn indicates that she most strongly identified with the role of informal counselor/mentor. She notes: “I talk with students all day long because communication is an essential part of building relationship and trust” (Sanborn, 2022, p. 26). In support of these efforts, she routinely shared her work cell phone number with students and attended school crisis team meetings. In Pennsylvania, these teams are known as the “Student Support Program” (SAP) (Sanborn, 2022, p. 142).
The importance of relationship building is a key component of the book. When SROs engage in these types of efforts they can avert crises from occurring or be better able to contend with them at the time of their occurrence. Relationship building established the invisible bonds of trust needed for a student or parent to share personal details. Such information can provide essential clues about current problems and help to prevent future conflicts. Dr. Sanborn states that her best advice to parents is “always to talk to your children when you have concerns or notice changes in their behavior” (p. 147).
The contents of this book can make a difference in the lives of all those persons involved in the school community since SROs serve schools as a resource to students, parents, staff, and the community at large. An SRO program should be available in every school so long as each SRO is properly selected, trained, and equipped. SROs need spaces where they can safely talk with students and they need ways for members of the school community to contact them. Police officers who take on SRO assignments will become an established part of the school environment and due to their involvement will have opportunities to enhance any school districts safety.
If you have any questions regarding how you can read any of Dr. Langman's or Dr. Sanborn's books, please reach out at email@example.com (we at Drift Net may have a few free copies laying around).
Both of these experts are available for scheduled training sessions for your school faculty. Visit our Trainings page to schedule a training.