Ellie Marindin

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — A shooting in February at Clinton College, which is roughly two miles from Winthrop University, has drawn attention to the issues of campus safety and school violence.

Feb. 16, two male teenagers, one who was 17 and the other who was 18, were shot at the Clinton College gym in Rock Hill around 1 a.m. WSOC-TV reported the gym was rented for a birthday party by a group that was not affiliated with the school.

Neither victim was a student at Clinton College and both were expected to be okay. There were no fatalities and no Clinton College students, faculty or staff were hurt during the shooting, the school said.

At Winthrop, the incident generated a discussion about campus safety and school violence.

“Continuing to educate students staff on being vigilant of your surroundings, listen to your gut if it’s telling you something doesn’t feel right, and how do you get help if there is a concern,” said Melissa Reeves, associate professor of psychology at Winthrop, who was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast.

Research indicates that while there is not an accurate profile of students who are likely to engage in school violence, there are several psychological trends found among attackers.

“There is no profile. While there are common indicators like many of them have grievances, many of them are experiencing stressors, they have little coping strategies to deal with stress, adversity or disappointment or rejection,” said Reeves.

“Many of them have come from environments that have had significant stressors. For as many commonalities as we know, there are just as many differences, because some have struggled academically, others have not. Some were loners, others were not.”

Reeves said her research areas include school crisis prevention and intervention, establishing safe learning environments, balancing physical and psychological safety, and the impact of trauma on academic achievement.

“The bottom line is, how do we recognize some of those indicators that says someone is starting to escalate or things within their life are decompensating and they are starting to get more angry? Some of those changes that we can notice to say, ‘this individual needs help so we can be more proactive and intervene earlier on,’” said Reeves.

“One of the huge pieces is, it really impacts your sense of safety. There’s no doubt that for a period of time, until you’re able to work through the traumatic event, you’re going to be more hypervigilant, more scared, more anxious, possibly depressed, because you’re too afraid to go out in public,” she said.

“The good news is that trauma is treatable. We’ve got a lot of really good, we call it ‘trauma focus therapies,’ that if you can find a counselor or therapist that specializes in trauma, there’s some really good therapeutic interventions to help you work through the trauma.”

However, Reeves said exposure to trauma is always difficult to deal with.

“I hate the (phrase) ‘get over it,’ because I don’t think you ever get over it. What I think you learn is how to integrate that experience into your life to where you’re nearly not as fearful,” she said.