WASHINGTON -- Most students who committed deadly school attacks over the past decade were badly bullied, had a history of disciplinary trouble and their behavior concerned others but was never reported, according to a U.S. Secret Service study released Thursday.
In at least four cases, attackers wanted to emulate other school shootings, including those at Columbine High School in Colorado, Virginia Tech University and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The research was launched following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The study by the Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center is the most comprehensive review of school attacks since the Columbine shootings in 1999. The report looked in-depth at 41 school attacks from 2008 through 2017, and researchers had unprecedented access to a trove of sensitive data from law enforcement including police reports, investigative files and nonpublic records.
The information gleaned through the research will help train school officials and law enforcement on how to better identify students who may be planning an attack and how to stop them before they strike.
"These are not sudden, impulsive acts where a student suddenly gets disgruntled," Lina Alathari, the center's head, said in an Associated Press interview. "The majority of these incidents are preventable."
The fathers of three students killed in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, attended a media conference Thursday in support of the study.
Tony Montalto, whose daughter, Gina Rose Montalto, died, said the research was invaluable and could have helped their school prevent the attack.
"My lovely daughter might still be here today," he said. "Our entire community would be whole instead of forever shaken."
Montalto urged other schools to pay attention to the research.
"Please, learn from our experience," he said. "It happened to us, and it could happen to your community, too."
Nearly 40 training sessions for groups of up to 2,000 people are scheduled. Alathari and her team trained about 7,500 people during 2018. The training is free.
The Secret Service is best known for its mission to protect the president. The threat assessment center was developed to study how other kinds of attacks could be prevented. Officials use that knowledge and apply it in other situations, such as school shootings or mass attacks.
Since the Columbine attack, there have been scores of school shootings. Some, like Sandy Hook in 2012, were committed by nonstudents.