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Posts Tagged ‘Guns in School’

4 Year Olds Huddled in a Bathroom: The Price We Pay Forward to Keep Guns Available to All

February 22, 2019 1 comment

Because the politicians in our country want to make sure anyone who wants a gun can get one, we are raising a generation of children who become accustomed to lockdowns. This chilling Common Dreams article describes a group of 4-year-olds who are experiencing their first lockdown drill… and it is an excellent argument against Universal Preschool. What parent would want to subject their 4-year old to this kind of experience? Presumably a parent who fears that the government will take away their gun is willing to make this trade off. Other parents may want to enroll their child in a school that is willing to assume that the odds against an invasion by a gunman are very high and would, therefore, avoid subjecting its children to this kind of de facto shock therapy.

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Diane Ravitch’s Recent Post and Steve Nelson’s Recent Article Flag the Debate We Need to Have: How Much is Enough?

February 5, 2019 Comments off

A recent post by Diane Ravitch and a recent op ed article by Valley News columnist Steve Nelson underscore the need for us to have a national debate on the question “How Much is Enough?”.

How much is enough for setting income tax brackets? The debate about taxing billionaires sidesteps the question of whether higher tax rates are needed for the top 10%, or top 20% Or the question of whether roughly 50% of the voters are not required to pay ANY income tax?

How much is enough for setting the maximum taxable limit for social security? As written in previous posts, the “social security crisis” could be solved for decades if we eliminated that maximum taxable limit for social security. What aren’t we talking about that?

How much is enough for business tax breaks at all levels? I have railed against the scandalous tax breaks offered to Amazon, Foxconn, and Walmart. But it is possible that small businesses might benefit from some kind of break in their taxes and those kinds of breaks might enable them to stay open and hire local people at a living wage.

How much is enough for the privatization of public services? As a school superintendent for 29 years, there were many instances where it became clear that it was better to hire a contractor to perform work that was to hire staff members. An easy example is plowing snow. In order for school district employees to perform that task the district would need to have trucks capable of pushing large volumes of snow. Tougher questions revolve around the provision of food services, transportation, maintenance, and business support services. Arguing that ALL privatization is bad is akin to arguing that ALL taxes are bad.

How much is enough for regulation? There are undoubtedly regulations that overreach and are needlessly onerous. But the profiteers have persuaded elected officials (and voters) that anything that restricts profits is “over-regulation” and that the market will punish those who pollute too much or treat employees badly. As we witness the dismantling of the EPA, Consumer Protection Agency, and virtually all regulatory controls at the federal level voters MAY be getting to appreciate the role regulations play in their workplace and in our society in general.

How much is enough to ensure our safety at all levels (i.e. national defense spending? local police and fire departments? hardening of schools?) We need to spend SOME money for our Armed Forces and we need to ensure that we take care of those who served our country in the military… but do we need to subsidize corporations that manufacture obsolete fighters, arms manufacturers who supply weapons to our allies (like Saudi Arabia), and private contractors who supply the military at high profit margins (see the question on privatization). We need to have professional police forces and fire departments, but do the police need military grade weapons to protect small towns and suburbs? Do we need armed police officers in every school, church, and shopping mall? We need safe and secure schools, but do those schools need bullet proof windows, 24/7 surveillance cameras, and sophisticated entry mechanisms for every door?

It seems that billionaires can never have enough money and, therefore, to accumulate more and more they can never have low enough taxes. The billionaires have done an admirable job of promoting the idea that ALL taxes are confiscatory, that private businesses can operate more efficiently than government, and that big-hearted philanthropists can move more quickly to solve problems than democratically elected officials and the administrators they hire. Therefore, they have been able to persuade voters that privatization and philanthropy are the answers to the problems facing our country.

As the man elected to the POTUS indicates, the billionaires have done an excellent marketing job. And more importantly, as the appointees to courts over the past GOP administrations indicate, the “long game” of the billionaires is working.

Welcome to the plutocracy.

Maybe we can change our course in 2020.

Privatization of Security + Tracking Technology Make Total Control by Oligarchs POSSIBLE… Only Democracy Makes it IMPLAUSIBLE

January 5, 2019 Comments off

JSTOR offers a weekly posting of stories written by historians, thought provoking stories like Eric Schewe’s “The World’s New Private Security Forces: The global private market for security has brought with it the need for hiring, measuring, and monitoring security workers in unprecedented ways.

In the article Mr. Schewe describes how the privatization of police forces has enabled billionaire plutocrats to effectively own and control the law enforcement arms of the government. His article puts this trend into historical perspective, but in doing so he fails to acknowledge that the combination of the concentration of wealth and the availability of new forms of technology now make it possible to create de facto totalitarian states where every move of every individual can be monitored making it possible for those in charge to control the entire population.

When the possibility of total control exists, the current trend of hardening public schools is even more troubling. As noted in many previous posts, schools now “routinely” have scanners at their limited access doorway, require photo IDs of anyone in the school, post armed guards on duty throughout the day, have surveillance cameras in every nook and cranny of the school, and require regular drills designed to train students to hide from “active shooters” who are deemed likely to invade their public space despite the fortress-like environment.

In effect, the new hidden curriculum in public education is one that “trains” future citizens to carry IDs ad be prepared to show them to police, to live in a world with 24/7 surveillance, and to be suspicious of anyone who does not conform to the rules imposed by the leaders of their environment.

Mr. Schewe implicitly suggests that the privatization he describes in the article is limited to African and Asian nations… but he is overlooking not only the security arrangements in public schools that are training future citizens but also overlooks the reality that our wars are increasingly being fought by private constructs and  not the “volunteer army” envisioned by our Founders and those who ended the draft in response to the protests against the Viet Nam War.

The combination of privatization of security and the advent of new technologies make the possibility of total control real. It is up to the citizens of democratic countries to make certain that total control remain implausible.

Politico’s Chilling Synopsis of Florida Safety Panel’s Recommendation

January 4, 2019 Comments off

I just finished reading the synopsis from Politico’s daily blog on education that is pasted below:

‘WE NEED TO BE UNLEASHED’: A public safety panel advising Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis called for giving law enforcement more authority in schools.Committee members, meeting by phone Thursday, embraced that recommendation and others made by the Parkland public safety commission in a report sent to state lawmakers Wednesday.

Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, called for eliminating student discipline programs, a recommendation put forth in a school safety report from the Trump administration last year. “We need to be unleashed into the schools,” Bell said, and “show consequences to the kids so that when they grow up and turn 18, we aren’t actually creating a pipeline to the prison system.” POLITICO Pro Florida’s Andrew Atterbury has more.

The last thing schools need is good guys with guns who have an attitude that they need to “…show consequences to kids”. Evidently Mr. Bell shares the view of many conservatives that restorative justice programs, interventions that engage parents, and expanded mental health and school counseling programs are inconsequential. As one who worked as a high school disciplinarian for six years I am curious what kinds of “consequences” the police will offer that do not contribute to the pipeline to prison.

If the purpose of discipline is to change the behavior and thought patterns of students who misbehave, and the purpose of policy is to implement evidence-based programs, I cannot see how unleashing police will help. But then we are experiencing a shut down of our government because a majority of Senators and House members do not see the value of spending $5,000,000,000 on a wall that was supposed to be funded by Mexico, funding that is requested without any evidence that it will make any difference whatsoever.

Washington Post Editorial Board Concludes that the Trump Administration Favors GUN Rights Over CIVIL Rights

January 1, 2019 Comments off

Our local newspaper often reprints editorials from the Washington Post, and a reprinted editorial earlier this week summarized the recent report from the Trump administration on gun violence in schools that I wrote about earlier in December… and it did so in a far more forceful and eloquent fashion. Like me, the editorial board of the Washington Post was appalled and perplexed about the Commission on School Violence’s recommendation that a federal policy that protects minority students from unfair discipline be scrapped. But the Post emphasized the disconnect between gun violence and the civil rights issue of uneven disciplinary treatment between students of color and white males:

Most school shootings are committed by white males. That didn’t stop the commission, which includes three other Cabinet members, from recommending a rollback of guidance issued in 2014 to curb racial disparities in discipline.Black students, starting from preschool, are more often disciplined in school and receive harsher punishments than white students for comparable offenses. The 2014 guidance — which was formally rescinded by DeVos and acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker — properly prodded schools to examine disproportionate discipline rates for black students and reminded schools they can be held accountable for violations of federal civil rights laws.

The guidance was non-binding and, as Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee who will become committee chair next year, rightly pointed out, had absolutely no connection to school shootings.

“Rather than confronting the role of guns in gun violence, the Trump administration blames school shootings on civil rights enforcement,” he said in a statement.

Why was this included in the Commission report while any mention of gun control was omitted? The answer can be found in the final word of the Washington Post’s editorial:

But using school shootings that have been perpetrated by angry young white men to justify punishing black schoolchildren disproportionately is particularly base.

And this recommendation, conflating civil rights with gun violence in schools, appeals to Mr. Trump’s base while overlooking the real problems that contribute to shootings in schools. The “distract and divide” strategy continues….

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Massachusetts Teacher Laments Her Role as Human Shield, Mourns Her Student’s Loss of Innocence

December 29, 2018 Comments off

I read with sadness a recent Washington Post op ed by Revere MA teacher Sarah Chaves written in the wake of the report of the Trump administration on how to deal with school shootings. Titled  “I’m a Teacher. Don’t Ask Me to Stop a Mass Shooting. I Can’t” with a sub-heading that reads “The Trump administration is standing behind the idea of arming educators. But I don’t want to be a hero”, Ms. Chaves describes the pain she feels because she has no idea how she would respond if a shooter was to enter her school, the sadness that permeates the school whenever they are required to perform a drill of some kind, and the loss her students feel because they have been educated in schools where fear is a constant condition.

But in addition to her feelings of pain and sadness, she also feels a sense of anger and bewilderment because gutless politicians are willing to put courageous teachers on the front lines. She writes:

The (Trump administration’s) report had little to say about gun control. Instead, it urged schools to defend themselves with more guns, echoing statements President Trump has made numerous times since 17 students and staff members were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Armed teachers, not more thoughtful gun laws or comprehensive mental health care, are apparently the answer. We are the ones tasked with stopping a mass murderer.

Instead of hiring more mental health counselors, more “good guys with guns” who cannot possibly man every doorway in every school in America, politicians in both parties have decided that making local decisions about arming teachers is a better path than passing national laws that might make it more difficult for anyone to purchase any weapon they want.

The result? As Ms. Chaves eloquently describes it:

…every day I feel closer to being thought of as armor for stopping a gunman instead of an educator. Every day, each state looks less “red,” less “blue.” Instead, the country has turned a deep shade of purple, an overwhelming bruise of hurt and loss.

And she offers this poignant description of how her attitude towards shootings has changed over the past several years:

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, a shooting that feels like a lifetime ago because of the number of massacres since then, I held a gathering with my ninth-grade students. They spoke of their sadness, their anger. I spoke with tears in my eyes.

“You know I would do anything I could to protect all of you,” I said.

Anything.

That morning, my students met me with hugs for my selfless words, but with each shooting, with each added ounce of blood that spills, I feel that selflessness waning, feel my fear rising. I have envisioned countless scenarios. I have mapped out escape routes, hiding spots, defensive talking strategies. But in each imagined scene, I don’t get deemed a hero. My picture doesn’t appear on cable news stations across the country. There are no vigils held in my honor. I survive. That’s all.

Teachers across this country have to deal with the sadness and anger their students feel, and reconcile that with their own sense of “waning selflessness”… a sense of selflessness that is exacerbated by the constant drumbeat of the politicians who decry them as being selfish while accepting the blood money of the NRA and echoing that organizations demand for more armed personnel in every nook and cranny of our country.

Here’s hoping that 2019 will bring about a change in our thinking about guns in school and guns in our country.

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Mental Health in Schools: Mission Creep? Mission Impossible? or Mission Essential?

December 27, 2018 Comments off

Over a decade ago when I was working as Superintendent of Schools I wrote an op ed piece for our local newspaper titled Mission Creep, a piece I later posted on this blog. The premise behind the article was that schools are being asked to take on far too many tasks that are beyond the scope of providing a sound academic education. It concluded with this observation:

Over the past fifty years public education had also absorbed responsibility for implementing social changes mandated by courts and legislatures. Schools became responsible for desegregation, educating severely handicapped children, and providing meals for poor children. During that same time period, legislators used public schools as a vehicle to show voters their responsiveness to issues in the news during the legislative session requiring schools to provide curricula on dental hygiene, gun safety, bullying, education on HIV and AIDS, and animal husbandry. Many of the social mandates are flashpoints for the public and result in erosion of support for schools and, in some cases, lower enrollments in public schools. The curricular mandates, taken in isolation, may seem reasonable. When they are required during the limited time students are in class, however, they supplant instruction in core areas of the curriculum.

That was then… and this NPR report of a survey result from Virginia Commonwealth University is now:

A recent VCU poll added a new question: whether or not people see providing mental health services for students as a core part of a public school’s mission.

Grant Rissler coordinates the VCU Wilder School’s Public Policy Poll. He says this question was new in last winter’s poll.

“Education is a key hub of so many other things policy-wise, especially related to youth. So I think the public and policy makers are constantly trying to figure out: what can we ask public schools to do?”

81 percent of respondents agreed – somewhat or strongly – that a student’s mental health should be part of a school district’s mission.

Virginia legislators will grapple with what that means next month. There’s already been legislation proposed that would require school counselors to spend more one-on-one time with students.

I wholeheartedly agree with the 81 percent who agree that schools should take on mental health issues… but I also believe they should do so by becoming community hubs for the provision of health and social services. Space for these services could be readily provided in rural areas where student populations are diminishing, in urban areas where public schools are expected to carve out space for co-located charter schools, and in suburban areas where the public has the funds needed to expand school space to accommodate health professionals of all kinds.

Tackling mental health might be mission creep and may be perceived as mission impossible… but in this era of social isolation and prolific guns, it is clearly an essential mission for public education.