Posts Tagged ‘Guns in School’

Medium Blogger Suggests Alternatives to Fear-mongering “Active Shooter Drills”

June 12, 2018 Leave a comment

The typical response to the horrific school shootings has been to fight fear with fear. Instead taking steps to identify ways to prevent shootings, politicians, parents, and voters have the same response: we need to accept the fact that shootings will persist and prepare our children to deal with shootings and harden our schools to make sure they don’t happen again.

In “Active Shooter Drills Aren’t the Answer“, Medium blogger BrennaDemands looks more deeply at the source of the mindset that leads to the shootings, identifies some of the factors in the day-to-day lives of children that contribute to that mindset, and offers some ideas about how we might deal differently with shootings.

She opens her article by describing the impact of “duck and cover” drills on my generation, emphasizing the traumatic effect it had on many children. BrennaDemands then offers an insight from a fifth grade child she read in an Unworthy article that resonated with me:

When we were sitting under the desks, I had a slight bit of doubt in the idea. To my fifth-grade self, it didn’t seem like the best idea to just be hiding if someone were to come in and try and hurt us. It would only take a few seconds of searching to find 25-plus kids and a teacher all cramped under those tables. … At the time, I automatically assumed that the adults knew more than we did. I figured that we were much safer than I realize we actually were, in retrospect.

this resonated because it reflected how my fifth-grade self came to two realizations: that hiding under a desk would not save us from the effects of a nuclear explosion and that the chances of a nuclear attack on Tulsa, Oklahoma where I lived at the time were extraordinarily remote.

The fifth grade child’s quote addresses the preposterousness of hiding under a desk as a safety measure, and later in the essay she addresses the statistical realities of school shootings:

the likelihood a child will be killed at school is less than one in a million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The chances of dying in a car or traffic accident are one in 5,000. And I feel comfortable on the road with my children knowing that I have taken steps to purchase a vehicle with safety features, installed the recommended car seats for their age and weight, and acquired training on how to drive a car at the appropriate speed limit.

But BrennaDemands is especially outraged at the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that the active shooter drills save lives, reports by the mainstream media notwithstanding. And she questions the value of reinforcing the idea that shootings are inevitable by holding these drills. Drawing on the statics cited above, she writes:

I do not need to simulate car crashes — with swerving and screaming and fire — for my children to understand what to do in the event of an emergency. There is no benefit to enacting a realistic car crash scenario that would outweigh the associated anxiety and trauma. Though I may not be able to prevent a car accident from occurring one hundred percent of the time, I have peace of mind that I’ve done enough to increase our odds of survival if it ever does happen.

She does acknowledge that there is one precaution that every teacher should take in the highly unlikely event of an active shooter stalking the school, and it is a precaution that only involves the adults in the school:

I understand that some administrators, teachers, and even parents believe we must do everything possible — and rehearse every scenario — to get an A+ at active shooter preparedness. But if the number one safety recommendation is a classroom door that can be locked from the inside, and if all adults in the building are knowledgeable of the lockdown protocols, then to what degree do children young and old need to be involved in the process?

In response to the inevitable question of what schools should do, BrennaDemands offers some ideas:

we need to listen to what kids are asking for and what makes them feel safe. We need to flood schools with more mental health professionals, not more armed guards. We need to know the signs to spot future school shooters. We need to break down the social isolation that causes loneliness and anger, which is much more likely to end in teen suicide.

BrennaDemands senses that parents and students are ahead of politicians and voters on this issue. They are tired of pointless and frightening drills that cause students to believe that school shootings are inevitable in the same way duck and cover drills led my generation to believe that nuclear war was imminent. They are tired of yielding to those who insist that everyone must be able to buy any kind of weapon and ammunition they desire. They are beginning to become a force to be reckoned with… albeit a gentle but persistent force. She concludes her essay with this:

It is time for the next generation to stop huddling in darkened classrooms and step out into the light. It’s time to show our country a better way to live.

I hope the parents and children will show us the way forward.

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North Carolina HS Principal Shows How to Combat Negativity and Overcome Fear

June 10, 2018 Leave a comment

My brother, who retired to the NC coast, sent me a link to this story about the North Brunswick HS graduation ceremony. The ceremony concludes with two of the class leaders pointing to the control booth at the back of the auditorium and shouting: “Cue the music!” At that point several of the graduates in the audience begin dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”. When the song reaches the chorus, all the graduates begin dancing and chanting the words:

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
(If you want to make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

At the conclusion the Principal offers an explanation as to why this song was selected:

“To the crowd, this is what this song means to us:” the principal said. “This year has been really traumatic and after every event in the country, we would play that through our speaker and we would promise to each other that that wouldn’t happen at North.”

Who needs armed guards when you have a leader who helps students look out for each other and look in the mirror every day and be the change you want to see.

NYTimes Profile of Greene County NC School Illustrates Inequities, Consequences of Cuts

June 7, 2018 Leave a comment

Over the past decade, public education funding in North Carolina has nosedived and with it equity and opportunity have vanished for large swaths of students. Yesterday’s NYTimes featured an article by Dana Goldstein that offered a chilling description of how those budget cuts affected Greene County, one of the poorest jurisdictions in the State. Titled “What Budget Cuts Mean for Third Graders in a Rural School”, the article could apply to poor rural schools anywhere in the country, though NC is especially devastated because of their legislature’s decisions to cut taxes that fund public education.

Ms. Goldstein’s article describes everything that is wrong with the “reform” mindset in public education, the “trickle down” mindset of politicians, and the priorities that schools are setting in the face of school shootings. The article describes:

  • how all instruction except for test preparation comes to a standstill in the weeks leading up to the State assessment.
  • how students prepare for the exams using software on Chromebooks instead of laptops because Chromebooks are cheaper
  • how teachers spend money out of their own pockets to print the downloaded materials so that children do not have access to the internet in their homes can complete their test prep work at home.
  • how some children have been repeatedly late for school because their bus is broken down and their is insufficient funding to fix it
  • how students ARE able to go on a field trip to a baseball game and learn about soil and the solar system thanks to “private philanthropy”… who chose these over, say, having their taxes raised to pay for things like textbooks and paper for copying machines.
  • how budget cuts, which the NYTimes gullibly attributes to “…rising costs for health care and pensions” in addition to “tax cuts“, compelled the district to eliminate a successful after school program, library books, and ancillary staff.
  • how the costs for teachers to participate in National Board Certification, a prestigious professional development program that affluent districts routinely access, are no longer available.
  • how playground and PE equipment are dilapidated and, in some cases, unusable
  • how teacher salaries in North Carolina have dropped by 9 percent since 2009, when adjusted for inflation, which has resulted in a statewide teacher shortage.

And last, but not least and by far the most sad result, a description of how the Principal might use any additional funding. She said she:

“… might restart the after-school program or hire a school psychologist. Or, with all the school shootings in the news, she could address safety needs by installing a buzz-in system or hiring a school resource officer.”

It is an awful circumstance that a district with the some of the lowest salaries, neediest children, and most outdated infrastructure might be compelled to use scarce resources for a buzz-in system or an SRO instead of restarting an after school program or hiring a psychologist. Awful… but it is the world we live in.

Too Good to be True: DeVos Contemplating PBIS as Means of Intervention in Schools

June 2, 2018 Comments off

As readers of this blog realize, I am strongly opposed to the idea of solving the problem of school shootings by “hardening” schools. Especially when “hardening” means spending millions of dollars providing more armed guards, more surveillance, introducing airport-like screening, invading the privacy of children by monitoring their on line posts and reading, and building higher fences and installing better door lock. The “hardening” ideas seem to have gained traction, particularly among those who are opposed to any gun control whatsoever and particularly among the GOP. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to read this description of the latest thinking of the “School Safety Commission” in Politico:

SCHOOL SAFETY COMMISSION TO FOCUS ON SCHOOL CLIMATE: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ school safety commission will be in the national spotlight for the first time today. As part of the commission’s work, DeVos is visiting Frank Hebron-Harman Elementary School in Hanover, Md., with a press pool in tow.

DeVos is set to visit a classroom and hear from experts, teachers, school administrators and students on “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports,” a term for a framework of interventions tailored to the individual needs of students, including those from disadvantaged groups, and designed to support better behavior and more equitable academic outcomes.

The topic of school climate is notable because the White House has said one topic the commission is exploring is whether to repeal Obama-era policies aimed at ending racial disparities when it comes to school discipline. House Republicans have said the Obama policies contributed to law enforcement’s failure to identify and stop the school shooter in Parkland, Fla., who killed 17 — an assertion adamantly denied by school officials.

Investing in PBIS or other structured behavioral management systems would be a far more effective use of dollars than hiring SROs or creating school police forces. As the title of this post indicates, the notion that Betsy DeVos would advocate PBIS seems too good to be true… I am not ready to exhale just yet, however.

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“Take a Knee” Controversy Revisited… And Our “Culture of Liberty” Takes a Hit

May 29, 2018 Comments off

Last week the NFL owners announced a new rule: players would either stand during the national anthem or remain in the locker room when the anthem was played. Those teams who failed to do would be subject to fines. In announcing this new policy, the league hoped to end the controversy over the political protests that emerged over the past two years, whereby players knelt on the sidelines to show their support for minorities who were profiled by police and, in many well-publicized incidents, lost their lives in confrontations that resulted from the profiling. The force of the protests had fizzled by the end of the 2016 season, but took on new life when the President of the United States called attention to the issue in 2017. Throughout the 2017 season different teams handled the matter in different ways and many fans viewed the protests and the specific players who participated as “unpatriotic”. Predictably, the protests at the professional level had an impact at ALL levels of athletics, including at high schools where students picked up the ideas.

In earlier posts I’ve advanced the argument that the protests should be supported like ALL free speech should be supported. I was heartened to see that at least one libertarian conservative writer, David French of the National Review, took a similar stance in a NYTimes op ed piece last week. In the essay, Mr. French noted that his conservative colleagues rightfully called out the liberals who were squelching free speech on campuses, in corporations, and in the public forum. He wondered how these same writers and pundits could turn around and support the efforts to squelch the free speech of African American athletes in the name of finding a “middle ground” on the issue of kneeling during the national anthem:

This isn’t a “middle ground,” as the N.F.L. claims. It’s not a compromise. It’s corporate censorship backed up with a promise of corporate punishment. It’s every bit as oppressive as the campus or corporate attacks on expression that conservatives rightly decry.

But this is different, they say. This isn’t about politics. It’s about the flag.

I agree. It is different. Because it’s about the flag, the censorship is even worse.

One of the most compelling expressions of America’s constitutional values is contained in Justice Robert Jackson’s 1943 majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. At the height of World War II, two sisters, both Jehovah’s Witnesses, challenged the state’s mandate that they salute the flag in school. America was locked in a struggle for its very existence. The outcome was in doubt. National unity was essential.

But even in the darkest days of war, the court wrote liberating words that echo in legal history: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

In our polarized times, I’ve adopted a simple standard, a civil liberties corollary to the golden rule: Fight for the rights of others that you would like to exercise yourself. Do you want corporations obliterating speech the state can’t touch? Do you want the price of participation in public debate to include the fear of lost livelihoods? Then, by all means, support the N.F.L. Cheer Silicon Valley’s terminations. Join the boycotts and shame campaigns. Watch this country’s culture of liberty wither in front of your eyes.

As noted in countless other posts on this blog, I despair at how our schools are now training children to live under a totalitarian regime in the name of retaining the “rights” of gun advocates to purchase whatever weapons they wish to possess. I would hope that those who seek the liberty to own whatever weapons they desire would support those who seek the liberty to speak their minds openly about racism.

A Sibling Spat Sends Chilling Portend of How Armed Parent Posses Could End Badly

May 27, 2018 Comments off

On a long car ride to school in Idaho, a brother and sister had an argument. The sister was still upset when she got to school and talked about the heated exchange with her friends. In a classic– and literal– example of the “telephone” game, her well-intentioned friends called police because they understood that the brother had a gun in his possession and was going to use it in school to harm his sister.

The school went into a lockdown… and roughly 20 local police officers showed up. But things then got complicated, because at the same time the law enforcement officers showed up, so did an armed band of parents. Here’s a description of the incident from a report by

Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen wants the public to know that arming yourself and responding to a school threat incident will likely put you in harm’s way and hinder law enforcement’s response.

The longtime sheriff made those statements after several armed Marsh Valley High School parents showed up at the school on Wednesday morning when word got out that the school had been placed on lockdown because of a student who authorities believed was possibly carrying a pistol and had allegedly attacked and threatened his sister, the Idaho State Journal reports.

The mother of the brother and sister says the incident was massively blown out of proportion and stemmed from a verbal rather than physical confrontation between her children on Wednesday morning as the two siblings drove to Marsh Valley High School, where they are both students. The mother said her son never possessed a firearm during the incident.

Nielsen said some of the parents who responded to the school after hearing about the lockdown were armed with AR-15 rifles. One parent who was carrying an unholstered pistol got to the school at the same time as the first sheriff’s deputies and state police and had a confrontation with a state trooper, the sheriff said.

Nielsen said encountering the armed parent at the school was very stressful for the trooper who stopped the man and told him to leave school grounds until law enforcement had the situation under control. Nielsen said the parent later profusely apologized to the trooper.

Nielsen, whose law enforcement career spans four decades, said he’s never seen armed parents respond to a lockdown before and he wants to make it clear that doing so is a very bad idea.

“Do not self-deploy to assist us,” Nielsen said. “We believed we had a kid who had just injured his sister and who had a gun. This wasn’t a test. We believed there was the possibility of an active shooter.”

The sheriff said that the armed parents who “self-deployed” to Marsh Valley High School because of Wednesday morning’s lockdown could have been arrested for interfering with law enforcement officers but weren’t.

He added that armed members of the public responding to school threat incidents put themselves in a very dangerous position because officers could think they’re active shooters and open fire on them.

Besides the pistol-toting parent who had the confrontation with the trooper, the other armed parents who showed up at Marsh Valley High School were stopped at the perimeter set up by deputies and state police around the school. Nielsen said members of the school’s janitorial staff also used school vehicles to block the entrances to the school’s parking lot to make sure no armed parents could get into the building, where law enforcement officers were trying to sort out what was going on.

It isn’t difficult to imagine a nightmare scenario where police and armed parents get into a fire-fight, with the police believing the parent is the “shooter”. Or worse, the parent entering the building with an assault weapon and a fire-fight ensuring where innocent victims are caught in a cross fire.

Two last thoughts:

First, the custodial staff who put themselves in harms way to seal off the school deserve accolades from the sheriff and apologies from the gun toting parents. By keeping armed parents away from the school they saved lives.

And second, it’s time for school districts across the country where gun laws are lax and stand-you-ground legislation is in place to revise their safety plans. Step one during a lock down needs to be deploying someone on the staff to seal off the entry ways so that armed parents don’t get confused for “active shooters” and draw fire from the police in the school or en route to the school.

Self-deployment is the price we pay for our current interpretation of the second amendment. I suppose an ad hoc gathering of armed parents passes in this day and age as a well regulated militia.

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Millions for Facial Recognition Technology: Not a Dime for Care-Giving Staff

May 25, 2018 Comments off

One of Diane Ravitch’s posts yesterday described the Lockport NY School District’s latest effort to ensure the safety of children in their schools: their decision to install facial recognition software.  The press release from the US-China Investment News offered this breathless assessment of the district’s acquisition:

“Lockport will be the first school district in the world with this technology deployed,” said Tony Olivo, an Orchard Park security consultant who helped develop the system.

The software is used by “Scotland Yard, Interpol, the Paris police and the French Ministry of Defense,” Olivo said. “There are a lot of facial recognition systems out there. There is nothing in the world that can do what this technology does.”

The cost of this new safety investment?

Lockport will spend $1.4 million of the state’s money on the Aegis system, from SN Technologies of Ganonoque, Ont., in all 10 district buildings this summer. It’s part of a $2.75 million security system that includes 300 digital video cameras.

As noted in an earlier post, the result of our current thinking is that we are raising a generation of students who are comfortable with the government monitoring them 24/7, working in an environment where they are monitored by armed guards, and being protected from those who might pose a threat based on government screening for mental health.

But creating this “safe” environment is presumably worth it because when they are old enough, these same schoolchildren will be able to acquire any weapons they wish to purchase— that is, unless they “pose a threat”.

And here’s the conundrum: if a school superintendent, school board member, or state politician argued AGAINST “safety measures” like any of the above they would be out of a job or out of office because of their failure to “do something” to stop the violence. As I think most readers believe, the “something” that is needed is to provide more “soft services” in schools: more classroom teachers; more social workers; more counselors… but if one seeks these kinds of initiatives in response to gun violence one is deemed to be soft in the head…

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