An open letter from the man who tried to stop Columbine to prevent further Columbines from happening
Randy Brown is a friend and workplace/school violence prevention advocate. He is also the father of the family that reported the Columbine killers to law enforcement for the "leakage of violent intent" the two future mass murderers exhibited before their deadly April 20, 1999 attack on Columbine High School.
The article below from March 25, 1998 represents one of numerous complaints made by the Brown family in 1997 and 1998 that unfortunately fell on deaf ears.
Watch the Brown family discuss their experiences regarding trying tp prevent Columbine from ever happening in this vintage interview on the Oprah Winfrey show:
Continuing his mission on prevention started in 1997 to prevent Columbine, Mr. Bown has now submitted a general letter to the Attorney General and Staff regarding how to prevent further "Columbines" from happening. Mr. Brown has given us his authorization to republish it below. Please read it.
A General letter to the Attorney General and the staff:
Regarding school safety and red flag behavior.
I am a Columbine parent, and I have been involved in school shooting research for 23 years. I have written about it, researched it, and followed it, specifically on-line with some of the sites that school shooters and disaffected children use, to understand it and to try to prevent school shootings.
I am, unfortunately, one of the experts in this field, and in understanding the reasons behind these killings.
This letter is to inform you of a new trend and prepare you for coming events, which I believe we can prevent through some proactive measures. You will be ahead of the curve if you read this and learn.
We have, currently, bullied and humiliated children who get revenge on a school for perceived injustices. Whether those injustices are real or not is irrelevant, as they are the cause of most school shootings. There is no difference to a 17-year-old male between a perceived injustice and a real injustice.
You have “safe2tell,” a very good program designed to give warnings by disclosure of red flag behavior.
It has been fairly effective.
But, you need to know that the paradigm has shifted.
The exposure of Columbine and the multiple mass shootings has evolved the shooter's perspective. They are still suffering with depression or considering suicide, but now they have changed into a “violent revenge theme.” The progression has moved from “I will show them, I will commit suicide,” to “I will show them, I will shoot 20 innocent children,” to “ I will show them, I will shoot innocent people.”
The unfairness and injustice is being turned quickly into violent responses toward society.
The events are being live-streamed to their friends. The videos are viewed on the internet and on tv. These live-streamed events will escalate the shootings.
The internet fuels the anger, and it is mentoring these angry boys toward violence with weapons in any public location.
If you do not get ahead of this behavior, it will escalate.
I believe that you need to expand your Red Flag oversight.
Just like “safe2tell” allows reporting about red flag behavior with students, you need to institute a Red Flag Reporting Site, so that the average citizen can report red flag behavior to the site, and you can have a threat assessment expert review it and dispatch deputies or specialists to investigate and prevent the planned action.
Let’s discuss what is needed:
1) “Safe to tell” needs to be modified. It is not acceptable to have a report made in confidence turned over to the school and the police. The Police must be the front-line in defense. Schools will always, yes, always, protect themselves first. They do not know they are the problem, and they will not admit it, so any report that is handled by the school is essentially ignored. A policeman must respond to all valid reports to “Safe to tell.” You only need to look at the attitude at the Stem School shooting to see the failure of that school’s administration. Any report must include an overview of the school the child is attending, addressing bullying, humiliation, isolation, harassment and the overall attitude of teachers and students. You are looking for a toxic school as the first sign that red flag behavior is valid. It is probable that you will need to train volunteers or policemen to go to schools, look for the signs of a toxic school, and recommend changes, with follow up interviews.
2) A “Red Flag Notification” system needs to be developed, or added onto the Safe to tell” program. Red Flag behavior, when reported, needs to be addressed with a full computer review, including the sites that the violator has been accessing. The violence on sites like Reddit and many others is very toxic, and develops the anger and revenge paradigms. A complete search for weapons, bombs and ammunition must be made for any valid report. I would recommend a central phone number or call site, which will handle all calls. It is currently easy to reach “safe2 tell,” but I am not sure where to call to report red flag behavior and violent intentions. It was surprisingly difficult to reach the Attorney General’s Office and a contact, even though your site says you deal with the safety of citizens.
That is the overview.
I hope you read this and understand that “Safe to tell” needs to be modified to be handled by policemen, and not the principal or a coach or a teacher.
It is my hope that you are already working on a “Red Flag Notification” system, and that you are aware of the shift in the progression of violence. If that is the case, I hope you find this letter encouraging. If that is the case, you are paying attention and being proactive.
If, however, that is not the case, and you have not discussed this in your planning meetings, and are not aware of this new trend, I hope that you will read this letter, and see the behavior that I am referencing. You need to get out in front of this and develop a “Red Flag Notification” system, with trained threat assessment experts, a call number for ease of reporting, and a follow up system with professionals, who will, through diligence, prevent these violent acts when notified about the behavior.
My thanks for reading this and considering it.
Read our in-depth 2020 interview of Mr. Brown here: