School of Criminal Justice Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Justice and Human Services

First Advisor

Tina Jaeckle

Second Advisor

Grace A. Telesco

Third Advisor

Gregory C. DiFranza


Despite their almost aberrational rarity, rampage school shootings have gained national attention to an extent that would make it seem that such events are a common occurrence. Many schools—along with hospitals, businesses, and other institutions—have adopted policies, implemented training, and conducted drills for responding to such incidents. In some cases, concern over school rampage shootings has led to bad policy implementations, particularly adoption of “zero tolerance” policies that punish the slightest infractions in hopes of thwarting potential attackers, but, rather than achieving their intended goal, result in massive false positive rates with few, if any, successes and a potential for fostering violence rather than abating it. For their part, law enforcement trainers and administrators have been caught in the rampage school shooter turmoil to such an extent that, starting with the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, significant paradigm shifts in policing methodology have taken effect. In order to promote more informed policy-making and training decisions by law enforcement managers, this dissertation seeks to determine through empirical study of the crime scene behaviors of rampage school shooters the extent to which law enforcement planning and training can be informed by the study of prior incidents. Policy, training protocols, and institutional response plans have been shaped, in many cases, by a world of perception rather than reason and sound empirical evidence. This research seeks to bring clarity to the decision-making processes and provide sound empirical evidence on which to base those decisions and develop strategies for on-site protocols to help mitigate casualties, establish police response protocols, and develop post-incident investigative models.