The Deputy Police Chief at Virginia Tech presented the profile of a school shooter to students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Thursday.
Gene Deisinger addressed the audience during the second annual End Violence On Campus conference and said school shooters are often male, Caucasian, control oriented and obsessed with violence.
Deisinger then showed listeners a picture of a person that perfectly fits this description – the photograph was of him.
Following the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, researchers worked to uncover what caused VT student Seung-Hui Cho to go on a shooting rampage leaving 32 dead and more than 28 wounded, Deisinger said.
However, no exclusive reason could be found and in most cases of school violence the perpetrator does not spontaneously decide to kill, Deisinger said.
“These incidents are not impulsive, over 75 percent of students consider, plan and prepare before engaging in violent behavior,” Deisinger said.
While profiles of school shooters have been constructed, they are not effective tools for violence prevention, Deisinger said. From Deisinger’s statement about what fits the profile of school shooter, it can be proven that profiles should not be the only tool used when trying to identify potentially dangerous students.
Instead of being weary of students who share the characteristics of a school shooter, college campuses should create a threat assessment team to prevent violence, Deisinger said.
A threat assessment team is comprised of trained members that investigate, interview and manage a student after receiving a tip from someone who believes that person plans to or is capable of committing a violent act, Deisinger said.
In 1998 at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., 15-year-old Kip Kinkel wrote “I will hunt you down and put a hole in your head – you must die,” at the top of his Spanish test, Deisinger said.
“In response to this disturbing message – which wasn’t written in Spanish – Kinkel’s teacher wrote ‘I’m concerned’ with three question marks at the top of the worksheet and handed it back to him. She told no one about this. Two weeks later he waited at home and shot his parents and killed two students and wounded 22 others at his high school the next day,” Deisinger said.
EVOC is an organization dedicated to ending violence against women, head of EVOC and violence protection specialist, Carmen Hotvedt said.
EVOC collaborates with a variety of campus and community partners, such as Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, to advocate for social change and policy reform, Hotvedt said.
After a year on campus EVOC invited Deisinger to speak about ways to prevent violence in schools.
“We brought Gene in because we think with what we’ve learned about mass casualty shooters we need to apply better to perpetrators of dating violence and sexual assault,” Hotvedt said.
At the UW there is a threat assessment team led by Associate Dean of Students Kevin Helmkamp. For the team to work it is crucial students report anything that one says or does that sounds dangerous, Deisinger said.