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Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center Report Proves Violence is Preventable When People Know the Warning Signs

Newtown, CT — Yesterday, the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center released the results of a study reviewing 67 averted school shootings between 2006 and 2018. The findings underscore that school violence is preventable if people know the warning signs and reach out to a trusted adult.

The “Averting Targeted School Violence” study found that more than two-thirds of the shootings were averted when a student noticed concerning communications or warning signs and reported the behaviors. The study affirms that “individuals contemplating violence often exhibit observable behaviors, and when community members report these behaviors, the next tragedy can be averted.” It also notes “prevention and intervention are paramount.”

The study also found 11 categories of observable planning behaviors – offering opportunities for others to intervene and get help before a tragedy occurs.  85% of plotters engaged in planning with some type of weapon and 73% detailed how they would execute their attacks.  

Additional key findings include: 

  • Targeted school violence is preventable when communities identify warning signs and intervene.
  • In 94% of the cases, plotters shared their intentions about carrying out an attack with others.  
  • Students were most often motivated to plan a school attack because of a grievance with classmates.
  • Students are best positioned to identify and report concerning behaviors displayed by their classmates, with 69% of plots observed by plotters’ friends, classmates, or other peers.
  • The role of families and parents in recognizing concerning behavior is critical to prevention.
  • Students showing interest in violent or hate-filled topics should elicit immediate assessment and intervention.
  • 70% of the student plotters had access to weapons, including unimpeded access to firearms.

In response to these finding, Nicole Hockley, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy issued the following statement:

“This report reconfirms what we have been teaching schools across that country –  that every single one of us has a role to play in saving lives. We must all learn the behaviors that correlate to the increased potential for violence, stay vigilant, and ‘say something’ to a trusted adult or reporting system to get help immediately. If you have a firearm, keep it stored safely away from children. Ultimately, our safety truly lies in our commitment to protecting one another. We all have the power to stop the next school shooting and save lives.”

To date, more than 12 million people nationwide have participated in Sandy Hook Promise’s proven Know the Signs programs that focus on prevention to help end the epidemic of gun violence by training youth and adults how to identify at-risk behavior and intervene to get help before a tragedy can occur. Through these no-cost programs, Sandy Hook Promise has averted multiple school shooting plots, teen suicides, and countless other acts of violence.


About Sandy Hook Promise: Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to end school shootings and create a culture change that prevents violence and other harmful acts that hurt children. Through its life-saving, evidence-informed Know the Signs prevention programs, SHP educates and empowers youth and adults to recognize, intervene, and get help for individuals who may be socially isolated and/or at risk of hurting themselves or others. Through nonpartisan policy and partnerships, SHP advances gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education at the state and federal levels that protect all children from gun violence in their schools, homes, and communities. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  

Media Contact: Dini von Mueffling CommunicationsStephanie Morris | [email protected] | 646-650-5005