Those red flags – the warning signs

We educators call them “red flags.”  They’re the metaphorical sticky notes in bright colors to call attention to a detail, an incident, an important event in a student’s record. Omar Mateen’s record – indeed, his life – was bristling with red flags.

Mateen was interviewed by the FBI not once, but three times.

Mateen’s ex-wife called him abusive and suggested he was mentally ill.

In his early school days, he was called “disruptive.” Educators noted that he seemed to feel no remorse. Terms like oppositional, lack of self-control, aggressive, rude, verbally abusive describe the young Mateen.

His middle and high school years were filled with suspensions. The details of these suspensions are not public, but include Fighting with Injury. 

His employment record wasn’t stellar, either. This guy had a background – a reputation, at the very least. From steroid use to inflammatory comments, he managed to get released from several jobs.

My concern, however, is that this young man showed signs of needing help when he was very young. His teachers, his counselors, the police school liaison officers, and most likely the administrators and deans all recognized that Omar was lacking somehow, somewhere. All those red flags! All that trouble! And then what happened?

Nothing. Despite behavior and emotional troubles, this young man went out into the world and earned a horrific place in the history books. He’s not the only mass shooter to leave a trail of red flags. 20/20 hindsight, people, isn’t enough. It’s time to pay attention. When educators point out students with potential for violence, it’s time for the world to listen.


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