Don’t Let Knife Attacks Fly Under Your Radar

Campus officials should plan, train and prepare for mass casualty weapons assaults using edged weapons, fire, explosives, chemicals and other weapons.

For nearly a decade, we have been tracking a series of horrible mass casualty shootings, stabbings, fire attacks, and other mass casualty attacks in schools in the People’s Republic of China. While people have often focused intently on rare but catastrophic active shooter incidents in K-12 schools, the horrific attacks that have left hundreds of Chinese students and educators dead or seriously injured have been largely ignored. Today’s mass casualty stabbing incident at Franklin High School in a Pittsburgh suburb bring these types of attacks home here in the United States. Though a number of multiple victim stabbings have occurred in the U.S., we have never had an attack of this scale using an edged weapon at an American K12 school.

Mass casualty school attacks with knives have left as many as 14 dead in a single incident and as many as 28 injured in another attack. These numerous and deadly attacks demonstrate that even a country with a swiftly applied death penalty, and strict regulation of guns and large knives, school shootings and other mass casualty weapons assaults are a very real threat.

These incidents also demonstrate that school officials should plan, train and prepare for mass casualty weapons assaults using edged weapons, fire, explosives, chemicals, and other weapons. As the two most lethal school mass casualty attacks to date in the United States involved fire – (95 murdered) and explosives (more than 40 dead) we have been placed on notice that other attack methodologies can and have been utilized. I have been deeply concerned that many school and public safety officials are so pervasively focused on active shooter incidents while largely ignoring other more common types of attacks such as edged weapons assaults.

Emergency protocols, training programs and drills should be designed to address the wide array of weapons people use to kill others. Today’s attack reminds us of other mass casualty school attacks where alternative weapons have been utilized. The nation’s first mass casualty school assault also occurred in Pennsylvania in a one room school house in 1764. With only one survivor, this attack remains the most lethal school attack in U.S. history in terms of the percentage of occupants killed.  In this brutal attack, Headmaster Enoch Brown and were beaten to death and brutally slashed with knives.

History provides many painful but important school safety lessons. Taking knife attacks seriously is one of them.


Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

About the Author

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Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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