A Framework for School Safety

April 5, 2018

BUFFALO, NY - As the pace of school shootings unfortunately increases, a new study by Counseling and Human Services Professor Ann Marie Lenhardt, PhD, provides insight as to what risk factors present the greatest potential for violent acts.

The research focused on 18 premeditated cases of secondary school shooters between 1996 and 2012, and examined 22 indicators of school violence in three areas: individual factors and behaviors, family dynamics, and triggering events. “The higher the number of risk factors present, the greater the potential for violent acts,” explains Lenhardt. 

Most revealing, she explains, was that 94 percent of the shooters demonstrated a lack of resiliency or inability to rebound from unpleasant experiences.  This factor, coupled with 83 percent of shooters who exhibited poor coping skills, “proved to be among the most deadly combinations.”

Aside from individual behaviors, the study found that family dynamics is one of the most prominent psychosocial factors linked to school violence.  And though “the majority of perpetrators came from intact families,” explains Lenhardt, “those families were often deficient in emotional closeness and in knowledge about their adolescent’s life.”

Considering the implications of these findings on administrators, policy makers and educators, the study makes recommendations “on how schools can develop a systematic violence prevention and intervention model to successfully identify and provide services to students of concern,” concludes Lenhardt.

“A Framework for School Safety and Risk Management,” was authored by Lenhardt with coauthors (and former students) Lemuel W. Graham MS ’02, a counselor at South Buffalo Charter School and Melissa L. Farrell MS ’03, director of clinical operations for Spectrum Health & Human Services.    


Click here for a more in-depth look at Dr. Lenhardt’s research.