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Father of Parkland Victim: Parents Should Call On Schools to Prevent Targeted Violence
COMMENTARY

April 5, 2022by Max Schachter, Executive Director, Safe Schools for Alex
Father of Parkland Victim: Parents Should Call On Schools to Prevent Targeted Violence
Mourners bring flowers as they pay tribute at a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, during an open house as parents and students returned to the school for the first time since 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at the school in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

Four years ago, I said goodbye to my little boy Alex as he headed off to school. I thought he would come back to me and my wife at the end of the day. 

I never thought that he would be murdered in his freshman year English class. The families of the 16 other innocent victims of the Parkland school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would go on to say the same. 

Four years later, it’s clearer than ever: By the time the gun comes on campus, it’s too late.

In November, four students were killed when a 15-year-old sophomore opened fire in a high school in Oxford, Michigan. It was the deadliest incident in our country since the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas that killed 10 people in May 2018 — just three months after the tragedy in Parkland that took Alex’s life. 


We don’t have to look very far to see that schools are not doing enough to prevent acts of targeted violence. The reason I have made advocating for better school safety practices my life’s mission is because we can save lives if schools implement the lessons learned from the Parkland school shooting. 

The latest report from the U.S. Secret Service examining 67 averted school attack plots found that targeted violence is preventable when communities identify warning signs and intervene. In every case studied, tragedy was averted by members of the community coming forward when they observed behaviors that elicited concern. And while plotters often had multiple motives for wanting to carry out violent acts, nearly half were motivated by retaliation, with many seeking revenge for being bullied by their peers. 

The first step in creating a positive learning environment for children is bringing awareness to these trends. This is why my organization, Safe Schools for Alex, launched the School Safety Dashboard; the first independent dashboard that analyzes state’s Department of Education data on incidents of physical attack, drug use, bullying, sexual assault, weapons possession and school suspensions inside of K-12 public schools.

After successfully launching School Safety Dashboards in five states over the last year — Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Virginia — our next goal is to create a School Safety Dashboard for every state.


Not only does the School Safety Dashboard provide parents with the data they need to start a conversation with their school, it acts as a valuable resource for legislators, law enforcement and other stakeholders to understand what issues need to be addressed.

The School Safety Dashboard gives communities timely insight into what schools need their resources the most — a critical aspect of designing and implementing programs that will keep students safe.

Decades of research from the U.S. Secret Service found we can learn about a student’s risk for violence by working through the “threat assessment process,” which is designed to gather important information about their communications and behaviors, stressful events they have experienced and the resources they have to overcome these challenges.

The best practice for preventing targeted school violence is through the use of a multidisciplinary school threat assessment team, composed of school staff tasked to identify, assess and intervene with students who may pose a risk of harm to themselves or others. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health and our children have not been spared from this. Now, more than ever, we need to choose action over complacency.

We can get ahead of tragedy by pushing our schools to use the resources they have, such as those on SchoolSafety.gov — a one-stop-shop created by the federal government to provide schools and districts with actionable recommendations and funding to create a safe and supportive learning environment. 


We should not have to wait for a mass shooting in every community to prioritize safe and secure schools, because at the end of the day if your children and your teaching staff do not make it home to their families, nothing else matters.


Max Schachter is the father of 14-year-old Alex who was killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. He is the executive director of Safe Schools for Alex

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