Ex-Secret Service agent discusses steps schools can take to prevent tragedy

Posted at 10:27 PM, Feb 14, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- The tragedy unfolding in Parkland, Fla. is impacting the entire nation and causing everyone to question how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

FOX 17 spoke with Jason Russell on Wednesday, a security expert who served as a police officer and US Secret Service agent. Russell says almost every school shooting we've seen in the past could've been prevented if someone noticed the warning signs.

"They're focusing a lot on the physical security measures, but they're not focusing on what's probably the most beneficial prevention strategy, which is looking for the warning signs that a student or person is going down this road towards launching an attack and that's really where the strategy should be focused," said Russell.

Russell says it needs to be more than just enhanced security in buildings, since sadly, many attackers are students.

"There's behaviors of concern that are exhibited prior to somebody launching what we would call targeted violence or a shooting attack," said Russell.

Russell says there are 20 or so warning signs to look out for that someone might carry out an attack in the future.

"It can be interest in previous attacks, gathering of weapons, something we call a leakage which is saying something that might lead somebody to believe you're getting ready to carry out an attack, fascination with weapons, gathering of ammunition, sometimes somebody who is bullied, somebody who has a grudge or feels like the've been persecuted," said Russell.

But it's not just one sign; it's multiple.

"We're not looking for one warning sign, we're looking for them in aggregate which makes the process of gathering that information even more critical because one person might have one of the pieces of the puzzle and another person might have another piece of the puzzle," said Russell. "If we don't put those two pieces together we'll never have the opportunity to prevent something."

Russell says schools need a way for people to report these warning signs and it needs to be anonymous.

"You're looking at fellow students, you're looking at coaches, you're looking at teachers, you're looking at counselors, you're looking at parents, you're looking at friends," said Russell. "All across the board we need to teach people what to look for so that we can intervene before something happens and hopefully we can prevent it."

Russell is the chief security officer for Secure Education Consultants. They started a program with the University of Alabama that schools can use to implement these practices. They've only been around for a few months, but they're now in every school in Alabama and hope to expand across the country. Their goal is to train schools on how to respond in situations like the one in Parkland and how to hopefully keep them from happening in the first place.