Current school safety measures aren't enough to prevent shootings

James Densley started his career in New York City as a special education teacher. There he saw the impact of violence on young lives and decided to go back to school to study sociology and youth violence.

That brought him to Metropolitan State University, where he teamed up with Hamline professor Jillian Peterson to develop a mass-shooting database that tracked the characteristics of shooters. They found that there is no one kind of person who commits a mass school shooting, but there are common characteristics like suicide ideation and trauma. Also, most shooters are young white men.

Densley would like to see "the conversation move away from lockdown culture."

"We want schools to be safer places with more mental health support and also more inclusive school environments," he said.

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Densley's and Peterson's research has focused on the 45 school shootings since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Rick Kaufman headed the crisis-response team at Columbine, where two students killed 13 people and wounded 20 others. Kaufman, a Minnesota native, took the terrible lessons he learned that day back to Minnesota. Now, he's executive director of community relations and emergency management for Bloomington Public Schools.

Kaufman and Densley agree that more needs to be done to prevent school shootings. On Friday, March 29, they spoke to host Angela Davis about potential safeguards schools can put in place to help prevent such attacks.

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This coverage is part of "Call To Mind"—MPR's initiative to foster new conversations about mental health. Learn more at