After the rampage at Virginia Tech, during which the shooter hid his eyes behind sunglasses, the intervention team at the University of Wisconsin heard from a teacher concerned about a student who wore sunglasses in class. The team also hears about more typical cases, such as a woman participating in recreational sports who appeared to have an eating problem. Wisconsin has now launched an intervention team just for the dormitories, and it sends counselors to faculty meetings. "Instead of putting up a sign in a dorm saying we're going to have a talk on depression and 14 people show up, we go to people who have contact with students on a day-to-day basis," says Eric Heligenstein, director of mental health services at Wisconsin.
When school shootings and other violence have been averted in the past, it has almost always been because students felt comfortable telling teachers or other authorities what was going on. Teachers might not find it comfortable being the campus early-warning system, Pavela says, but they need to reach out to students. If ever there was a time when young people needed adults on campus to serve as guides and mentors, Pavela says, it is now.