Averting School Rampage Student Intervention Amid a Persistent Code of Silence

Eric Madfis, University of Washington Tacoma


Pulling from in-depth interviews with school administrators, counselors, security and police officers, and teachers directly involved in thwarting rampage attacks at 11 Northeastern schools, this study considers the extent to which students have broken through a 'code of silence,' discouraging them from informing on their peers. While findings support prior research indicating the vital preventative role of students' coming forward with information about threats, close scrutiny of averted incidents reveals that scholars and educational practitioners have overestimated the extent to which the student code of silence has diminished post-Columbine. Even in these successfully averted incidents, numerous students exposed to threats still did not come forward; those who did were rarely close associates or confidants of accused students; and some who did ultimately come forward did so as a result of being personally threatened or in order to deflect blame away from themselves, rather than out of altruistic concern for others.