Parkland High School Shooting, Valentine’s Day, Feb.14, 2018 & Violence Prevention

Posted on: February 15th, 2018

Updated on Feb. 16th, 2018.

Today, February 15, 2018, we awaken to the 18th school environment shooting. What was the motivation for the tragic shooting and murder of 17 unsuspecting high school students by the “disgruntled shooter” on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018. Why Valentine’s Day? For the purpose of clarity, let me say that this number includes all shootings that have taken place on school grounds. Before this shooting Parkland High School was domiciled in a community rated as one of the most crime free communities to live in.

What motivated this person to take out such aggression against innocent, unsuspecting high school students?  It wasn’t an idea he decided to pursue that morning so, it is safe to assume that he had been thinking about his plans over a period of time. But when was the planning conceived? We know now that the “shooter” was expelled from Parkland High School so the attack may have been a complete surprise.

We call this type of predisposed, premeditated shooter an “active shooter”. Before I offer an accepted definition, allow me to suggest that when the disgruntled person transitions to thoughts of revenge, you are likely to be confronted with an active shooter mentality. Therefore, workplace violence programs must focus on the prevention value in attempting to de-escalate thoughts of anger and retaliation.

In this discussion, let’s all accept that we have an unrestrained individual within a contained area exercising the use of lethal force and posing immediate risk, actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated or confined area using firearms. How did the shooter’s thinking get him to the incomprehensible stage in his life where communication concerns translated to the homicidal act of violence? When we know the active shooter’s mindset, we are familiar with the 5 phases or stages that can be integrated into the workplace violence prevention strategy and training; (1) Fantasy, (2) Planning, (3) Preparation, (4) Approach. and (5) Implementation. The Fantasy, Planning and Preparation stages are “prevention” opportunities.

As we reflect a moment on the Parkland High School Shootings, the fire bells exposed the children to the shooter. Quick thinking by teachers and students minimized risks and made the difference.

Workplace violence prevention consulting is an ongoing process involving multiple interdiction strategies that start at the top with a vision, mission, senior management commitment & investment. We must accept that until there’s an alignment between policy, plans, procedures, security, technology & people, “Prevention” will never be aligned. Alert, Notification & Communication is essential. Would your plan pass a critical vulnerability assessment?


Edit: the 18 school shootings include not only shootings by students in school during school hours, but also other perpetrators who shoot or have been shot while on school grounds at any time of day or night.

18 Responses

  1. Felix, as your colleague and a concerned citizen, I resonate that prevention is necessary everywhere – in school, work, home. We’ll written and necessary article!

    • Felix says:

      Eileen, we are in agreement that when it comes to workplace violence, “prevention” being the operative word is essential in workplaces and schools. Prevention starts with enforcing the policy, supporting the policy with plans, procedures and training. The policy alone is the solution. It requires in senior management commitment and investment.

  2. Brian says:

    Valentines Day to punish the people who made him feel isolated. A selfish move by a spoiled child.

    • Felix says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective BRIAN Taylor. Suggesting that Valentines Day may have been a factor is a function of critical thinking. Those involved in post incident assessment must not disminish the value of information. I would consider the need to get even in this way plausible. The outcast behavior associated with isolation may be relevant and justified by his selfish motivations. I wish I could interview him.
      by a spoiled child.

  3. Erin Moloney says:

    There were measures taken, by the administration, the teachers, and even students that helped to save lives. I commend them all for their quick thinking and their bravery, bit looking forward…
    I have heard complaints from personnel in multuple states.. they dont know what to do.. they have never been trained.. or the worst.. training is not in the school budget.
    Obviously the price… the cost of lives far out weighs what a normal person would see as an expense…
    But the qestion remains… where do people go for training, how can a eacher convioce the school bard of its importance… and if need be, how or where can they get it for free.

    • Felix says:

      Erin, I understand your views and perspectives but must share my two cents.

      First and foremost, I honor those who gave their lives in saving others and those employees and teachers who saved lives while being seriously injured. I too commend them all for their quick thinking and their bravery but more must be done.

      I wonder how many of those killed or wounded in the hallways would have been saved if they were empowered to make their choices or decisions like “evacuating and escaping” instead of running back to classrooms to “Lockdown”. Recently, I had a correspondence exchange with a Dad whose son was afraid and wondered if he could make his own decisions despite of what he might be told to do. If that child has a concern, I wonder where it emanates from?

      We are beginning to learn that “prevention” failed internally and that filed reports with local law enforcement suggested a real and present concern and danger. So what role or responsibility does the school and school board have in taking appropriate prevention measures? If most students are like our children, their horror stories suggest that students do not have credibility in reporting so they retain what they see, hear and witness.

      It is a known factor, that workplaces and schools have challenges wrapping their arms around “prevention” whether we call it workplaces or educational institutions. “Prevention” is not active shooter training that, is a tactical reaction to an imminent threat of homicidal violence. Active Shooter Mitigation is the necessary reaction to a homicidal threat in minimizing risk. “Prevention” is the investment that insures there is an alignment between policies, plans, procedures, people. security, technology and people.

      So as we look forward those interested in rolling out comprehensive approaches, not complicated should first conduct a critical vulnerability assessment of their current workplaces and schools security posture, and supporting workplace violence prevention policies, plans, procedures and training. This process must precede any training.

      Your references to complaints from personnel in multiple states are valid. I hear them daily via phone, in person and via my social media connections that the workforce and school staff are uncertain or uncomfortable with their organization’s stated policy or plans. The training they’ve received while needed falls short. Reporting falls on deaf ears, there is little to no follow up. The Zero Tolerance Policy is designed to be punitive and not preventive. It is seen as management’s expedient measures that does not resolve issues or concerning in addressing contributing factors. Discipline, “Suspensions, Expulsions and Terminations” are necessary evils that create more emotional outbreaks than desired.

      The argument that price/fees drives the decision and discussions goes back to value. You pay for what you get! FREE training depending on its origin is not always the best. Worrying about the fee undermines Mission Statements that tout that those who walk through these doors and work with in these walls are the most important people. It can’t be the case, if they are haggling over FREE over FEES.

      So until workplaces and educational institutions have serious dialogue about actual commitment and investment, they will always have the disgruntled employee or student who transtions to violence and everyone is caught by surprise. Active shooter is not just about training, it is about having supporting plans, procedures and technology that empowers the security process and the personnel decision-making process. That starts with how we Alert, Notify and Communicate before, during and after the All Clear and the shooter is contained. We should not have students not knowing what to do when the shooter has been contained. Thanks for taking the time Erin.

  4. Thank you Felix for being a champion in bringing awareness and solutions to help prevent & combat these horrific events. I would like to think that we could suggest and implement electronic measures to aid in mitigating these tragedies but that does not compare to practical training, I am an advocate of the ABCs: AVOID, BARRICADE, COUNTER & SURVIVE. Let’s continue to drive these types of initiatives forward. You have an advocate and partner in me.
    Also, I am very pleased to see the early development of NFPA 3000; Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events.

    • Felix says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments and compliments, Jim MacQueen. I have been a student of workplace violence prevention since August 20, 1986, following the United States Postal Service Tragedy at the Edmonton Oklahoma Post Office when Part-time Letter Carrier Patrick Sherrill wounded and killed 20 postal employees before killing himself.

      In addition, prior to that the Postal Inspectors were responsible for providing for workplace security were proactively committed to minimizing risks to employees who dealt with the public as letter carriers, drivers, delivery and window clerks. Today, my passion is in creating dialogue that brings the prevention mentality to every workplace and educational institution. So, preventing & combating these horrific events have been an accidental growth during my tour in Washington, DC as the public information officer and continued to the present.

      I agree with you that technology plays a significant role in workplace and school security. Without technology there will never be an alignment between workplace security and workplace violence prevention. With creative collaboration, I am certain innovation can allow us to factor gun detection technology before the weapons enters the building, plant, or school. Perhaps this is a discussion we should be having in averting future armed intruders. Mitigation is most assuredly a major component of my approach to active assailant/hostile intruder threats. Thank you for your continued advocacy and partnership.

      The NFPA 3000; Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events may be another helpful step in the right direction. I look forward to supporting that initiative in any way I can.

  5. Ricky Davis says:

    Felix. You’ve laid out an important discussion. I often wonder if mandatory “teacher training day” curriculum now includes active shooter planning? At what stake holder level does the alignment occur? School Board? City Council?

    • Felix says:

      Hello Rick Davis, thanks for your contributions to this discussion. The one refreshing observation noted following the Parkland High School Shooting incident on Valentine’s Day, February 14th was hearing the teacher’s confidence in executing their active shooter training and lockdown procedures. Would it be a good idea to set aside a day for annual refresher training (mandatory) for all is certainly my recommendation as a sure way of drilling home repetition and retention. Your idea is a great one! I believe such an initiative will best be served at the school district, school board and/or city leaders.

  6. Cindy says:


    Communication coupled with a practiced communicated plan is key. I’ve read Valentines Day origin being opposite of love. Nevertheless, it was a sad and tragic day. I would like for you to interview Cruz as well.
    The article was well written.
    Thank you for sharing and diligently expressing the need for workplace violence prevention in all areas of our lives.

    • Felix says:

      Cindy, Communication is at the core of proactive workplace violence prevention strategy through policies, plans, and training. Thank you for your compliments.

  7. The term ` Alignment ` is key re the formulation of effective plans for safe Schools and Workplaces ! The Alignment of Health & Security is an important objective ; and , although some may see these as disparate terms , I contend that they are convergent , since Health is a state of Physical Psychological & Social Wellbeing and Security occurs when there is a balance between Asset Protector & Threat ! The 5 Phases mentioned are interesting and I would be interested to learn if they derive from a published research paper ?

    • Felix says:

      Malcolm, as a workplace violence prevention consultant, I have tried to help workplaces find the best courses of action possible. Simplification of the workplace violence prevention has always been my pursuits because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So from a practical perspective that seeks to help maximize the value of workplace violence prevention, the term “Alignment” is used to describe how the design, implementation and management of effective workplace violence prevention plans for safe Schools and Workplaces can work together in being proactive.

      My intent was to create a logical workplace violence prevention ongoing thought process connected to organizational preparedness through the integration (people working together), collaboration (people sharing information together), coordination (people discussing the issues and making better decisions together), and communication of efforts and resources (people talking about their observations and people feeling comfortable about reporting observations) in any workplace or school setting. Because the role and daily concerns for workplace and school security is often left to the non-security staff, the creation of a framework of thinking that shares in the responsibilities through collaboration serves to avoid being caught by surprise.

      By connecting “Prevention” to The 5 Phases of the Active Shooter mentioned in my Blog workplaces and schools get 3 chances during phases 1, 2 & 3 to intervene by being proactive. Does it take a commitment and investment? It sure does! However, “Reacting” to an armed intruder is not Prevention but rather risk mitigation at a worst time and point. Before intervention can occur, workplaces and schools must have a frame of knowledge that understands that collaboration is a critical element in Prevention by recognizing and reporting observed behaviors and situations.

      As information, Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized, police trainer, who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience was the originator of the Active Shooter Program.

      The following links will take you to a discussion of the origin of the 5 Phases of the Active Shooter Mindset, the why, and the how.

  8. Bowman Olds says:

    I believe in the KISS principle. No extensive verbiage here:
    1. Focus on the people (background checks, screening, surveillance, “see/hear something, say something”), not the guns.
    2. Teachers with guns? Forget it. Do what TSA has done. It seems to have worked thus far.
    3. Instill the mindset of Run, Hide, Fight whether it’s the school, church, restaurant, health care facility, etc.

    Thanks for allowing us to vent Felix.

  9. Rix says:

    As you know Felix, I am highly schooled in the fields of psychology, sociology and ontology. I like how you’ve developed the 5 stages and noted where the prevention/intervention models work, long before the need to use physical deterrents, from incarceration to the lethal end of a violent incident.
    I will make three notes: Assassins and Terrorists(homicide bombers or others) and Shooters are all indoctrinated in a basic simple pattern, their root begins in a form of poverty and isolation. They seek a way to be someone, to have a sense of power or receive attention. The difference in the indoctrination is whether it’s by group or self. The common threads in our shooters is thus far psychotropic drugs and usually a mental issue. I say usually because whether a professional diagnoses you with depression or schizophrenia is a vast range, but the treatment in the US and EU is to place the person on medications, and possibly confine them. Yet we also give medications for attention deficit disorder and similar learning issues that are truly no less psychotropic. Have you read the list of side effects on these drugs? It will sicken you.
    Thus I will say that the hashish used to indoctrinate an assassin is not that different from the psychotropic medications in their effect. The rituals may be replaced by routines or even an arcade game, I wouldn’t even rule out cards or slot machines(think about the Vegas shooter). I’m not blaming the drugs, nor the rituals, but we need to look at these factors in combination with a basis of poverty. You may argue the Parkland School shooter had money, but actually it was the adoptive parents and he was working at a dollar store and building an arsenal. It would drain those checks to buy the bullets alone. This is why I define a few forms of poverty, and his was a poverty in relationships and attention. Poverty isn’t just a monetary word, it’s that something is lacking, be it relationships, the need for feeling significant related to this area, hunger or financial poverty. So I won’t make this long, but I feel we have the first clues as to the breeding ground for the discontent and anger.
    Let’s open a forum to discuss these and improve our models and thus our ability to spot a potential shooter or terrorist long before it comes to an incident. I would think some suicides come from a similar vein, since it’s a cry for help, which is a form of getting attention.

    • Felix says:

      Rix, while I will not profess or imply knowledge in any of the subjects and viewpoints you maintain, I agree wholeheartedly with the need for a forum to discuss prevention. strategy and how we can best move forward to design a prevention oriented model that at least intervenes earlier and not being caught by surprise. These types of emotional killers do not snap and kill indiscriminately as Dr. James Alan Fox opines. They are deliberate in the preparation and execution of their plans. The prevention methodology would formalize a model that begins proactive intervention long before the headlines after the shots are fired. There is sufficient intelligence (information) during the pre-event phase that is overlooked that are clearly tied to the first two stages of the Active Shooter’s Mindset. As Cruz (the Stoneman-Douglas High School, Parkland, FL) proved, most mass murderers do not have a criminal record or a history of psychiatric hospitalization (Mandalay Shooter).It is therefore important to note that unless a federal gun ban on assault weapons denies purchase directly tied to specific criteria intended to reduce access, mass murderer don’t only rely on assault type weapons. The preoccupation with banning and restriction of guns seems to take a perspective that laws will prevent access when gun can be stolen, acquired from family and available on the street, greater attention must be paid to early, swift intervention particularly as it relates to the workplace and school. Workplaces and Schools should know their workers and students. To your psychological and societal observations and conclusions there are some common features in the mass murder profile (depression, resentment, social isolation, tendency to blame others for their misfortunes, fascination with violence and interest in weaponry), Dr. Alan Fox says these characteristics are all fairly prevalent in the general population. We must remember that these are rationalized and justified shooters determined to get even. Ever notice how reporters always seem to find the employee, teachers and students who in the aftermath of the shooting begin the identification of the overlooked warning signs. So the idea that arming teachers and increasing schools with additional security personnel and technology can be the solution, is partially the solution without a focus on the prevention component. Before more schools adopt arming teachers as the solution, let’s be mindful that this shooter is not interested in getting caught or surviving the outcome. Typically they are in it to make a fantasy splash or to get even for a perceived wrong. Armed teachers can only use their gun when given the opportunity but usually after the shooter has killed the intended targets. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say guns will not play a role, I only say that the shooter knows the day, hour and the location. So no matter how secure the school may be, students will always create a breached entry point just as workers will do the same at their workplaces. The key components will be security awareness, school security and prevention.

  10. Al Robinette says:

    Hi Felix,

    You hit on a lot of call outs here. I think we all agree prevention strategies that focus on planning, preparation, and practice are a great step in the right direction.

    There is a difficult challenge during times when events are not occurring that both school administrations and business leaders alike do not want to discuss it.

    They start to believe if things are calm there is no reason stir the pot and make everyone scared or think about this stuff. This unfortunately results in losing the physical and mental muscle memory they originally gained. Now if a crisis occurs the reaction time is significantly slower at best.

    I believe the challenge in violence prevention is striking that balance between consistent awareness without creating an environment of fear. There is a school labeled the safest school in the country with a structured program that’s great. Students have said they feel safer known no there is a plan and proactive measures.

    Great discussion Felix!

What are your thoughts?