On April 20, a teacher and fourteen students died violent
deaths in the place where they had expected to be safe. The mothers of
school students in Littleton, Colorado, thought it couldnt happen in
their community. That was the kind of problem other communities might
face, but not theirs. Perhaps camp directors have thought the same thing.
Not in my camp!
It would be naive, however, to assume that no camp will
experience problems of violence, weapons possession, or threats against
But if more than a million kids carried guns to school
last year (a statistic quoted by the National Community Safety Institute),
wouldnt it be short-sighted of us to say that none of that million went
to camp? Or are coming to camp?
Of course, we dont know the answer to how many of them
went or are coming to camp. It would be naive, however, to assume that
no camp will experience problems of violence, weapons possession, or threats
against others. Or that no camp will have an angry camper who threatens
violence at some point over the course of the summer. How do we cope?
Securing the Site
The day after the Littleton, Colorado situation, I surfed
the Web and looked at sites that dealt with violence in schools. I found
in that research that schools use a variety of methods to deal with security:
of Public Schools Utilizing the Measure
access to school grounds
access to school buildings
It was interesting to see how few schools are able to,
or have chosen to use detectors the prevention method that gets a lot
of newspaper coverage. Yet, in the past seven school years, at least 196
children have died as a result of being shot, another thirty-five have
been stabbed to death, and eleven more have been kicked or beaten to death
(National School Safety Center statistics).
While the camp industry lacks centralized statistics,
deaths that occur in camps occur primarily because of drowning or vehicular
Does that mean we can be casual about violence? By no
Recognizing the Risk
The consensus of experts is that site security is, at
best, a very elusive target. When reading information from school safety
authorities, much more emphasis in prevention was focused on the recognition
of the warning signs that precede violence. See the checklist which
follows that identifies those signs to which attention must be given to
work with kids effectively.
Training must be given to staff to help them recognize
these signs of potential risk, and camps must be ready to provide interventions
to provide support to campers or staff members who fit the profile. This
is a great topic for staff training, or perhaps a good place in your staff
agenda to invite mental health professionals from your community for input.
Are Camps Different Than Schools?
There are some ways in which camps have the potential
of an advantage over schools.
A greater level of supervision. Generally, camps
average a 1:7 or 8 ratio, where schools may have 1:20 or 30.
Camp is usually a positive choice for campers and
staff; school is mandatory.
Campers generally dont come to camp with rage already
at the boiling point in relation-ships between campers or campers