Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Warning Signs of Potential School Violence

NOTE: These signs have been extracted from a variety of sources46 and do not represent a scientific assessment, and should be regarded as speculative.

  • Has engaged in violent behavior in the past.
  • Has tantrums and uncontrollable angry outbursts abnormal for someone that age.
  • Continues exhibiting antisocial behaviors that began at an early age.
  • Forms and/or maintains friendships with others who have repeatedly engaged in problem behaviors.
  • Often engages in name calling, cursing, or abusive language.
  • Has brought a weapon or has threatened to bring a weapon to school.
  • Consistently makes violent threats when angry.
  • Has a substance abuse problem.
  • Is frequently truant or has been suspended from school on multiple occasions.
  • Seems preoccupied with weapons or violence, especially associated more with killing humans than with target practice or hunting.
  • Has few or no close friends despite having lived in the area for some time.
  • Has a sudden decrease in academic performance and/or interest in school activities.
  • Is abusive to animals.
  • Has too little parental supervision given the student’s age and level of maturity.
  • Has been a victim of abuse or been neglected by parents/guardians.
  • Has repeatedly witnessed domestic abuse or other forms of violence.
  • Has experienced trauma or loss in their home or community.
  • Pays no attention to the feelings or rights of others.
  • Intimidates others.
  • Has been a victim of intimidation by others.
  • Dwells on perceived slights, rejection, or mistreatment by others; blames others for his/her problems and appears vengeful.
  • Seems to be preoccupied with TV shows, movies, video games, reading materials, or music that express violence.
  • Reflects excessive anger in writing projects.
  • Is involved in a gang or antisocial group.
  • Seems depressed/withdrawn or has exhibited severe mood or behavioral swings, which appear greater in magnitude, duration, or frequency than those typically experienced by students that age.
  • Expresses sadistic, violent, prejudicial, or intolerant attitudes.
  • Has threatened or actually attempted suicide or acts of unfashionable self-mutilation