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Posts Tagged ‘Guns in School’

“Personalization” Exacerbates Loneliness… and Loneliness Undercuts Our Well-Being

November 10, 2019 Leave a comment

Nicholas Kristof’s NYTimes op ed piece today describes England’s War on Loneliness, a national effort to address a phenomenon that adversely impacts their culture— and one that also impacts ours. As Mr. Kristof acknowledges, the root causes of loneliness are complex and may defy the reach of government intervention. In describing how England is attempting to address the problem by creating a minister for loneliness, Mr. Kristof sidesteps a description of how our country is making things worse. I left this comment to underscore how skewed our spending priorities have become in terms of education spending:

I fear that our schools are not helping the situation. Instead of spending money to fund counselors who might help those children who are lonely we are instead spending money on good guys with guns, surveillance cameras, and ways to “harden” schools. When it comes to measuring the “effectiveness” of schools we focus on things that are easy to measure like standardized test scores, per pupil spending, and the number of computers. Since it is difficult to measure the happiness or connectedness of children and even more difficult to address the underlying causes of those problems they are ignored. And worse, in the name of personalization, we have students spending more time isolating themselves on computers and less time interacting with each other. If we want to improve our connections with each other, we might start by disconnecting from technology in classrooms and re-engaging in dialogue.

GOP Proposed that Public School Spend Millions on Unproven and Invasive Surveillance Technology

October 24, 2019 Comments off

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How can any members of the GOP support this mandate without money for surveillance technology that will cost local taxpayers millions and won’t do anything to help school children get the services they need. Why? Because the NRA likes it!

The Florida Legislature’s Solution to School Shootings: Collect Data on Children Instead of Limiting Access to Military Grade Weapons

October 12, 2019 Comments off

The title of a CNBC report by Kate Fazzini is chilling:

Florida is scooping up huge amounts of data on schoolchildren, including security camera footage and discipline records, and researchers are worried

The reason for collecting this data is not revealed in the headline but IS revealed in the second bullet point at the beginning of the article:

  • Florida schools are now required to collect, store and crunch data on students in the name of predicting a school shooting.

This bullet point was elaborated on later:

Florida schools are now required to collect, store and crunch data on students in the name of predicting school shootings. The Florida Schools Safety Portal, or FSSP, executive order was issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year in response to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Along with this caveat,drawn from research done by the Aspen Institute:

No evidence-based research has demonstrated that a data-driven surveillance system such as the FSSP will be effective in preventing school violence. In addition, no information is publicly available about how the database was designed, developed, or tested,” according to preliminary findings by researchers.

Researchers from the Aspen Institute DID offer some details, though:

The law requires Florida school districts to store huge amounts of data in one database, including thousands of hours of video footage, grade cards, student disciplinary records and teacher memos. It also includes information on children collected through “social media monitoring, local law enforcement agencies, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Baker Act admissions, and the School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting System, which aggregates data on crime, violence, and disruptive behaviors.

There’s a massive amount of data going into this database, but they still haven’t been transparent about what algorithm they are using. Using administrative data to predict future behavior, it’s not evidence-based.

Aspen expressed concerns that the data gathered would “disproportionately affect students with disabilities and African American males, two groups that have traditionally received disproportionately higher disciplinary actions than other students” while noting that “…there’s no evidence that students who have discipline problems in school go on to become school shooters.”

What neither CNBC nor the Aspen Institute did say was that the Governor and the Legislature had a choice: they could go after military grade weapons owned by a handful of gun owners or they could compromise the privacy of tens of thousands of school children. The choice from where I sit would be easy… but then the NRA isn’t underwriting my blog.

SRO Arrests 6 and 8 Year Old at Florida Charter School

September 23, 2019 Comments off

Newsweek reported that an SRO arrested a 6 and an 8 year old child at a Florida charter school. All I am say is that I hope the day never comes when this kind of thing is NOT newsworthy. The link to the article follows:

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Criminalizing the Disease of Addiction is Wrong Approach

September 4, 2019 Comments off

As reported by apple.news/AboIG8hxxRZ-, an NBC news story indicates that 38% of the school districts in the US will be doing some kind of screening for drugs, up from 25% a year ago. At the same time the money being spent on prevention programs at the elementary level is declining. The bottom line is that we have decided to spend scarce dollars on law enforcement instead of spending it on medical prevention. This same approach is also being used to address the issue of school shootings where we are devoting billions to hardening schools to protect students from alienated outsiders while slashing budgets for student services. Fear is a potent force and protecting children from bogeymen is a powerful narrative. We need to use medical science and data to guide our decision making… not fear and compelling stories.

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Video Surveillance in School Hallways + AI = Training Students for a Future WITH Guns and Stealth Mental Illness Screening

August 27, 2019 Comments off

I’ve written several posts decrying the expanded use of surveillance cameras and cautioning against the use of facial recognition software in schools, so when I read that President Trump is proposing to use AI to flag potential mass murderers I was immediately appalled. To be clear as possible, here’s a synopsis of the President’s proposal as reported by Common Dreams reporter Julia Conley:

As The Washington Post reported Thursday, the Trump administration has worked with Bob Wright, a close friend of Trump’s and his collaborator on the reality show “The Apprentice,” to develop a proposal for a new federal agency that would be called the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA), within the Health and Human Services Department.

HARPA would be modeled after and led by a top official at the Pentagon’s research office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has developed drones, artificial intelligence meant to merge with deadly weapons, and technology to help U.S. soldiers detect safety threats during deployments.

Instead of developing military equipment, HARPA would draw information from people—gathered strictly from people who opt in to the program, the administration says—to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act.”

This would be disturbing enough if our President supported world leaders who value the rule of law, but given that we have a President who extols the virtues of leaders like Vladimir Putin, whose nation has used psychiatry to deem political opponents as mentally unsound, this proposal is very unsettling.

Since school shootings seem to be an area that everyone agrees is the most distressing and every level of government from local school boards to the Federal government seems to think that “hardening” schools is a good idea, it would not surprise me at all to see this new agency conducting field tests in schools.

We are already training our children to accept video monitoring, limited access to public facilities, and training drills designed to protect them from individuals who are unconditionally allowed to purchase military grade weapons designed to inflict maximum damage on soldiers. Do we now want to subject them to profiling based on untested algorithms? Do we want to use AI to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act.”? This voter does not want to allow that to happen.

This is America Today: Bullet Proof Backpacks, Retailers’ Active Shooter Drills… and Fear

August 12, 2019 Comments off

I read with dismay that the sales of armored backpacks is peaking and that businesses like Walmart– like public schools and churches– are contemplating active shooter drills. This is our country today, where fear outsells hope and open carry laws and “second amendment rights” are more important than the safety of children, consumers, churchgoers, and citizens gathering in public venues.

Are we headed for a time where we will eventually do everything on-line? As schools scare children with realistic active shooter drills, businesses are invaded by open-carry advocates with AK-47s outfitted in body armor, church activities are invaded by gunmen, public events are disrupted by shootings, more and more Americans become convinced that their lives are in peril whenever they set foot outside their homes. And the 2nd amendment advocates are OK with all of this because in their view everyone will be safe when everyone carries a gun and everyone protects their home, presumably with some kind of rapid fire weapon. Those of us who are presumably foolish enough to believe that being armed is unnecessary will be viewed with disdain should we be shot and killed just as a school that fails to offer active shooter drills would be criticized for failing to provide the training needed should they experience one of the regrettably routine school shootings.

And here’s what I find especially troubling: astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was roundly criticized for a tweet he issued pointing out the cold hard fact that statistically speaking gun deaths are relatively rare. He wrote:

In the past 48 hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings.

On average, across any 48hrs, we also lose…

500 to Medical errors
300 to the Flu
250 to Suicide
200 to Car Accidents
40 to Homicide via Handgun

Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.

Mr. deGrasse Tyson did not comment on the rationale for his tweet… but I believe he was trying to stem the groundless fears that compel us to overreact to widely reported sensational news stories. For example, if we used the DATA Mr. deGrasse Tyson gathered to set priorities for how schools might address problems that confront students over the course of their lives, we would spend far more on counseling services and health education, and less on security personnel and surveillance gadgetry. We would be examining the sales of handguns as well as the sales of military grade weapons. We would be spending more to ensure that fewer errors are made in the provision of health care. And last, but not least, children would not be living in fear every time they set foot inside of school. Their parents would not be purchasing bulletproof backpacks. And Walmart would not be worried about conducting active shooter drills.