In the wake of school shootings, schools can be inundated by profiteers looking to capitalize on the tragedies.
SPOKANE — In the minutes, hours and days following a school shooting, those directly affected struggle to understand what happened.
And those looking to make a buck pick up the phone or draft an email.
Within 10 minutes of a deadly 2014 school shooting in Washington, Becky Berg, the superintendent of the Marysville School District, started receiving emails from people trying to sell “door locks, metal detectors and emergency supplies.”
“It couldn’t have been more offensive,” she said.
Most Read Stories
The emails kept coming. And then the people. Counselors showed up. Many certified and well-intentioned. At least one a complete fraud.
Therapy animals. Dogs. Even a pig.
Berg sent the pig to comfort middle-school students. Within an hour, the pig’s owner had unrolled a sleeping bag and curled up with the pig. The pig wouldn’t let children come close. The pig didn’t even like children.
“Turned out the pig was not a therapy pig,” Berg said. “It was just a pig.”
The requests and offers kept coming. Berg, already worn down from days of nonstop work, was stunned at the brazenness.
“This was one of my biggest surprises,” she said. “That people prey upon your vulnerability in order to profit for themselves.”
“In the moment you’re so vulnerable it’s pretty hard to imagine,” she added.
Profiteering from school shootings is not an isolated event, school-shooting experts said. In fact, an industry of sorts has developed around mass shootings.
“There is a lot of ambulance chasing,” said Ronald Stephens, the executive director of the National School Safety Center. “Not only to sell products but to also address litigation issues after the fact.”
“I get calls weekly from companies that want to sell and market products, and we do not…