The Bay County School Board Shooting Incident: Implications from the Research Literature
Piotrowski, Chris, Organization Development Journal
On December 14, 2010 a 56 yr. old man, Clay Duke, approached the 6-member school board panel during its meeting, brandishing a gun. After allowing the females to leave the room, he confronted the male members about the termination of his wife, a school teacher. He then wildly fired several shots and, fortuitously, nobody was hit. Almost immediately, Duke was shot by the school district safety officer. Since board meetings are public events, local media filmed videotape of the entire violent episode. The dramatic footage received vast media attention and was the lead story across national TV networks. Crisis management has garnered much research attention in the organizational and business literature over the past decade. This article (a) reviews prior research findings on deadly workplace violence, and (b) offers recommendations for the mitigation of workplace shootings in light of this audacious, tragic incident in Panama City, Florida.
Workplace violence, over the past 2 decades, has unfortunately become an ubiquitous aspect of organizational life and the business environment (Davis, 1997), and more importantly, has taken on a myriad of forms. For example, harrassment, mass shootings (e.g., Buckley et al., 1999; Laabs, 1999), revenge reactions (Sommers et al., 2002), and mass bullying (Keim & McDermott, 2010).
Alarmingly, recent research by the American Society of Safety Engineers-Risk Management Group reported little change in corporate security policy and procedures from 1999 to 2004; specifically, there has been scant implementation or refinement in workplace violence training (see ASSE 2004 Workplace Violence Survey & White Paper; ISHN, 2004).
According to the trade publication Occupational Hazards' (2004), there were 164 workplace shootings in the U.S. between 1994-2003, resulting in 290 fatalities and 161 injured. Of these incidents, 52% of the perpetrators experienced a recent deleterious change in employment status. Moreover, nearly 14% of the attackers had a publicly known record of mental health problems. Survey data, from the mid-1990s, indicated that 17% of workplace violence incidents involved shootings (Society for Human Resource Management report). According to the 2002 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, homicides are the 3rd leading cause of on-the-job violence. Unexpectedly, research shows that about onethird of all deadly workplace incidents occur in 'White-collar' organizational settings.
Recent Shooting Incidents
Perhaps the first major shooting incident, in recent U.S. history, that garnered extensive public attention occurred in 1966, when the innocence of campus life was shattered when a deranged sniper at the University of Texas (Austin) randomly shot individuals, over a period of hours, from the perch of a prominent campus building; 14 people were killed and 32 wounded. Since that time, hundreds of cases of deranged or disgruntled workers, students, and former employees have used deadly force in public settings, factories, and corporate buildings. For example, the Pettit & Martin law firm in San Francisco (8 dead, 6 wounded), Xerox -Hawaii (7 killed), All-Tech Investment Group in Atlanta (5 dead), all in the 1990s. More recent incidents include the Columbine High School rampage, the 2007 Virginia Tech University massacre (see Piotrowski & Guyette, 2009), and the Hartford Beer Distributors shooting (9 killed) in 2010.
While these were highly publicized events, a vast amount of deadly-force incidents go unreported, receive scant media attention, or are ignored by authorities. In fact, for many years, workplace killings were viewed as a taboo subject. For example, relatively unknown to the public and college students, there have been many incidents in the U.S. where doctoral candidates have shot or killed their dissertation committee chairperson after being failed for their oral defense after years of graduate work ( and thus denied the PhD degree). …