Knoxville School Shootings: Were they Foreseeable?

Posted by on February 14, 2010

An elementary school principal and assistant principal were allegedly shot by a teacher this past Wednesday. 

It only took two days before news headlines started reading:


School district documents were quickly posted on local news web sites.  A school security department investigation report from less than three months prior revealed allegations that the teacher “…has mental health issues and was a danger to the school…”.

School records also revealed documented parent and student complaints against the teacher. 

After any high-profile school violence incident, the media, parents, and typically attorneys will end up asking one simple question:

“Was it foreseeable?”

Preliminary information in the news suggests in this case, this may be an exceptionally tough question for school officials to answer.

This particular case generates many other questions, such as:

  1. Was the security investigation reasonably thorough?
  2. What type of working relationship exists between school security/police and the human resources administrators?
  3. How does the school district address issues from the perspective of  the school as a workplace and how are safety concerns voiced by employees in this workplace handled?

There are a number of other issues such incidents raise including those around media and parent communications, mental health recovery of students and staff after a traumatic violent event, and more.

But for now, and then again in months or years down the road when the legal depositions and/or court hearings hit the district, the most hounding question will be:

“Was it foreseeable?”

This is the one question any school administrator, board member, and principal will almost always have to answer after a high-profile school safety incident.

And in many cases, this question is the hardest of all to answer.

Are your school administrators and board members prepared to respond to such a high-profile incident and the tough questions that follow?


Ken Trump



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