Archives for category: Guns in Schools

Since the U.S. Senate refuses to consider any regulation of guns, some schools are preparing for the next shooter.

In Colorado, students are receiving training in how to respond if they are confronted by an active shooter.

Colorado was the site of the Columbine massacre in a high school and the Aurora massacre in a movie theater. Last May, a student was killed in a charter school in Douglas County.

The gym at Pinnacle High School echoed with laughter and a few cheers Wednesday morning as students took turns tackling a heavily padded man.

While it might have sounded like a game, the orange water pistol in the demonstrator’s hand served as a reminder of what would be at stake if they ever had to use the tactics they were learning on a real assailant.

The Adams County K-12 charter school spent most of the school day having students practice skills such as barricading their classrooms, evacuating the building — and, if necessary, defending themselves. Many schools near Denver and across the country teach the idea of fighting back as one possible option during an attack, but relatively few have students actually practice what they might do if a gunman entered their classrooms.

Clarissa Burklund, president of Pinnacle’s school board, said officials hadn’t discussed having students do more than traditional lockdown drills until this summer. The May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, where three students rushed one of two attackers, showed that teenagers could defend themselves and need to prepare for that possibility, she said.

“I hate that they have to talk about this,” she said with a catch in her voice. “I hate that they live in this society. But they do, and there’s no point in denying it….”

There’s no nationwide tracking of how schools prepare their students for active shooters, but emphasis appears to have gradually shifted from “locks, lights, out of sight,” where students are told to take shelter in their classrooms, to “run, hide, fight,” where they are expected to choose their best option for the situation. Some schools also have started conducting more realistic drills, including the sounds of simulated gunfire, but that practice has spurred controversy, especially when students weren’t aware they were only dealing with a drill.

Little evidence exists to show if one type of active shooter training is more effective than another, and some experts have concerns about emphasizing cases in which students have fought back. The fear is that could encourage students to overlook safer options such as evacuating.

Last May, there was a school shooting in the STEM Academy charter school in Douglas County, Colorado, one of the most affluent districts in the state, and a student was killed by another student.

Now there is a debate between the school district leadership and another charter school about arming teachers.

On the one side of the argument is Superintendent Thomas Tucker, who says guns have no place in the classroom.

“Teachers are not armed,” Tucker said. “We will fight tooth and nail of any school whether it’s a neighborhood school or a charter school.”

On the other side of the debate is Derec Shuler, the executive director of Ascent Classical Academies. The charter school currently operates within the Douglas County School District. However, for more than a year staff at Ascent have been training to carry and use, if necessary, firearms inside the school.

“We have staff who volunteer,” Shuler said. “They’re screened and they undergo pretty rigorous training. That’s on-going as well to be able to carry concealed firearms at school to protect kids.”

The Douglas County School District recently had to deal with a school shooting. An 18-year-old student was killed and eight others were hurt during a shooting on May 7 at the STEM Academy.

The superintendent insists that only security personnel will carry guns.

He has told the charter that it can leave the district if it insists on arming teachers. The charter may take him up on his offer.

Superintendent Tucker arrived in Douglas County after the defeat of a board led by rightwing zealots who controlled the school board and wanted to offer vouchers. Tucker had to take charge and restore confidence in the public schools. He looks like he is a take-charge guy. No doubt he has read the stories about the teachers who misplace their guns, drop their guns, forget their guns in the restroom, accidentally discharge their guns.

 

The parents of the children massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. have been subject to unending abuse by conspiracy theorists who claim that the massacre was a hoax, that it never happened, that the children and parents were “crisis actors,” and that it was staged by advocates for gun control.

The parents have fought back with defamation lawsuits against Alex Jones, the chief perpetrator of this calumny, and his followers.

EdWeek reports that one parent just won a defamation case. 

The father of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has won a defamation lawsuit against the authors of a book that claimed the shooting never happened—the latest victory for victims’ relatives who have been taking a more aggressive stance against conspiracy theorists.

The book, “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook,” has also been pulled to settle claims against its publisher filed by Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting.

“My face-to-face interactions with Mr. Pozner have led me to believe that Mr. Pozner is telling the truth about the death of his son,” Dave Gahary, the principal officer at publisher Moon Rock Books, said Monday. “I extend my most heartfelt and sincere apology to the Pozner family.”

A judge in Wisconsin on Monday issued a summary judgment against authors James Fetzer and Mike Palacek.

Pozner has been pushing back for years against hoaxers who have harassed him, subjected him to death threats, and claimed that he was an actor and his son never existed. He has spent years getting Facebook and others to remove conspiracy videos and set up a website to debunk conspiracy theories.

Lately, the fight has been joined by others who lost relatives in the Dec. 14, 2012, school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. After quietly enduring harassment and ridiculous assertions for years, some have changed their approach, deciding the only way to stop it is to confront it. Their efforts have turned the tables on the hoaxers, including Alex Jones, host of the conspiracy-driven Infowars website.

Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was among 20 1st-graders and six educators killed at Sandy Hook, spent years ignoring people who called him a crisis actor. His family moved to the West Coast, but still the harassment didn’t stop. He would get letters from people who found his address. He was once stopped in a parking garage by a man who berated him and said the shooting never happened…

Pozner is the lead plaintiff in several of at least nine cases filed against Sandy Hook deniers in federal and state courts in Connecticut, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin.

In the case against Jones, the families of eight victims and a first responder say they’ve been subjected to harassment and death threats from his followers. A Connecticut judge ruled in the defamation case that Jones must undergo a sworn deposition, which is scheduled for July in Texas.

I hope that justice is done.

Tim Slekar produced a podcast about school shootings and their aftermath.

Two survivors of the Parkland mass shooting committed suicide, as did the father of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook.

Tim describes the podcast:

“Parkland, FL mother Rosemarie Jensen.  Rosemarie’s son survived the Stoneman Douglas school shooting and talked to us last year about that day.  In this interview Rosemarie talks about the aftermath of living “after a school shooting.”  Last week two “survivors” committed suicide.  But WHY?  And what’s being done now?

“Educated Educators Talking Education:Joanna Rizzotto talks to us about life inside the classroom “after school shootings.” Are we making it safer or simply adding to the anxiety of children and teachers.  Plus we talk to Dou Vang—currently a substitute teacher— who quit teaching after being “shot” during an active shooter drill.

In the Public Interest is a nonpartisan organization that tracks the privatization of public services and assets.

Its latest report:

Is school security the next gold rush? A year after the harrowing school shooting in Parkland, Florida, investor cash is pouring into the school security market. But big money was already being spent on unproven technology shielded from public view. “Schools and other education-related buyers are the fifth-biggest market for surveillance systems across the world but the top market in the United States, with $2.7 billion in revenue in 2017.” The Washington Post

A warning to D.C.’s education leaders. A former board member at Indianapolis Public Schools describes her experience working with former superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee, who also happens to the D.C. mayor’s choice for the next D.C. Public Schools chancellor: “Under Dr. Ferebee’s leadership, we created ‘Innovation Network Schools’— partnerships between IPS and charter schools. But it turned out that Innovation Network Schools aren’t really partnerships at all. In fact, they’re an underhanded way of turning over public resources and assets to private hands.” 730DC

Huge salaries for charter school leadership. Journalist Rachel Cohen digs into charter school administrator salaries in Washington, D.C., revealing startling figures: “The head of Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School and the highest-paid charter official in D.C., received a 24 percent salary increase between 2015 and 2016, from $248,000 to $307,000. Then, in 2017, she received another 76 percent increase, bumping her compensation to $541,000.” Washington City Paper

Police in school don’t make students of color feel safer. Rann Miller of the 21st Century Community Learning Center critiques the final report from President Trump’s Federal Commission on School Safety: “The recommendations from Trump’s school safety panel benefit school privatizers, and institutions like prisons, at the expense of people of color. It’s the American way.” The Progressive

“Wherever there’s a battle over public education lately, a billionaire is somehow involved.” Jacobin Magazine weighs in on the upcoming Oakland teachers strike: “Although charter schools don’t improve student outcomes, they have all sorts of destructive impacts. As noted above, they massively drain resources from public schools. In the 2016–17 school year alone, Oakland Unifed School District lost over $57 million in revenue to charter schools, according to a report by In the Public Interest.” Jacobin

ICYMI: the U.S. spends more on its prison system than it does on public schools. The country’s incarceration rates have more than tripled over the past three decades, even as crime rates have fallen. During the same period, government spending on K-12 education increased by 107 percent. Daily Mail

Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education at Michigan State University, saw an article that he found alarming.

The article to which he objects appeared in GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly).

The article begins:

As Pam cracks the door to the front office, her hand creeps to the gun strapped at her hip. She’s in her 40s, with dark-rimmed glasses and a ponytail poking through the back of a baseball cap. At five foot six, she is not an imposing presence, but then again, what kindergarten teacher is?

She peers inside and sees a parent—Mr. Brown, who she’d heard was locked in a custody dispute with his ex-wife—shouting at Betsy, the school secretary, something about how he wants to see his son. And then he takes out a pistol of his own and holds it right up to her head.

Pam is lucky; Mr. Brown doesn’t notice her. She draws, her elbows locking out as her eyes settle between the sights. But in the split second before her index finger depresses the trigger, she hesitates. I have to try, right?

“FREEZE!” she shouts.

BANG.

Mr. Brown murders Betsy and swings the barrel toward Pam, cursing.

BANG.

Pam sends a bullet into him, and he staggers back; a second round to his chest, and he crumples to the ground. She exhales, unsure what to do next, standing over two lifeless bodies when there could have been one.

Just another day at school for a busy kindergarten teacher.

Robinson’s response:

If you’re a teacher who reads all of this and thinks, “Well, that’s not me. I’m different. I’ve had a gun for years. I’m a hunter, and a responsible gun owner. I’m all about gun safety. I was in the military. I just want to protect my students and colleagues”, then you are precisely the kind of person who should never be permitted to have a loaded weapon in a school. You’re exactly the sort of person that shouldn’t be allowed to carry a deadly weapon into a room full of children looking at you as someone who cares about their learning, and their well-being.

If you really and truly believe that the best way for you to protect your students is with a gun, then please quit your job immediately, enroll in a police academy, get properly trained and prepared to use a weapon in live-action situations–not by a 1 day “professional development seminar,” like we pretend to train and prepare teachers to do all sorts of things we don’t really value enough to do the right way (like “blood borne pathogens training,” and “sexual harassment prevention training,” and “court-mandated reporter training.” ProTip for Teachers: if the PD session you’re sitting through has the word “training” in its title, no one in the Central Office really cares if you actually learn how to do the thing you’re being trained on–it was either an unfunded mandate from the state education department and/or legislature, or your superintendent thought it would “look good” if parents and other school budget voters saw teachers were being given that training.)–and get out of the classroom.

After the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February, several students emerged as national spokespersons for the anti-gun movement. One of them, David Hogg, helped organize the “March for Our Lives” in D.C., which drew 800,000 people to the nation’s capitol. Hogg became a target for right-wingers and NRA shills.

When he admitted that he had been turned down by four California universities, FOX talk show host Laura Ingraham mocked him as a “whiner.”

This was not a good move for Ingraham.

In March, he told TMZ about his rejection letters he’d received from four California colleges, which came as he organized a movement he said was “changing the world.”

Mocking Hogg’s comments, Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted a story from a conservative news website that described the teen as a “Gun Rights Provocateur” — and said Hogg was whining.

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it,” Ingraham tweeted. “(Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA … totally predictable given acceptance rates.)”

Hogg responded on Twitter, where his number of followers has surpassed 900,000. He compiled a list of 12 companies that advertise on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”

In a matter of days, Ingraham lost more than a dozen advertisers, including Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, Hulu, Jenny Craig, Ruby Tuesday and Miracle-Ear.

David Hogg was just accepted into Harvard.

Payback is a bitch.

Congratulations, David!

After the massacre of 17 students at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last February, the Trump administration created a commission headed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to come up with recommendations to make schools safe.

The report was released today and landed with a great thud.

Some of its proposals were already in place. Contrary to Trump’s demand, it did not recommend arming teachers. It did not call for age limits on access to guns. It recommended mental health measures but did not propose funding for what it thought necessary.

Politico summarized the report here.

The DeVos Commission said nothing about gun control. Its most consequential proposal was to rollback Obama discipline guidelines that instructed schools not to hand out punishments to black students that were disproportionate to those given to white students. This is a bizarre recommendation, since the shooter at Parkman had been expelled and was white. No connection between the crime and the “remedy.”

Randi Weingarten issued a comprehensive critique of this toothless report:

“The Federal Commission on School Safety took a horrendous year of school shooting tragedies and produced a report with a smorgasbord of recommendations—some of which we have championed for years—aimed at making our schools safer. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t address the root causes of the gun violence epidemic: too many guns in our communities and not enough investment in addressing the social-emotional health of our kids. And, sadly, the Trump administration has no coherent plan to address this crisis.

“While the report proposes some worthy strategies already recommended by students, teachers and school staff—including support for school counselors, cyberbullying prevention, extreme-risk protection orders, the troops-to-teachers program, and active shooter training—it does not contain a single proposal for new funding for these initiatives.

“What’s more, the commission appears to punt on the question of arming teachers, rather than taking a strong stance against it, even though parents, students and teachers agree: Putting more guns in schools only risks making schools less safe. But Betsy DeVos continually advocates for this lunacy. The report doesn’t recommend age restrictions on firearms and appears more concerned with the National Rifle Association and the school security industry than with the needs of the people in classrooms.

“But most curious and disappointing is the report’s use of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to push an anti-civil rights agenda that won’t keep schools safe. The report suggests rolling back Obama-era school discipline guidance that was intended to help prevent the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ youth—under the guise of making schools safer. The shooter at Stoneman Douglas had in fact been expelled and reported to law enforcement; rescinding discipline guidance and kicking kids out of school doesn’t prevent school shootings.

“Today, the commission and the Trump administration missed an opportunity to bring the country together. Parents, students and educators want schools to be safe. That requires fair discipline policies, but also a real investment in meaningful mental health supports and other key recommendations in the report, plus the advancement of commonsense gun safety reforms to help curb the gun violence epidemic in our country.”

Betsy DeVos and her commission of Cabinet members released their report on school safety, formed in the wake of the Majorie Stoneman Douglas Massacre in Florida. The students quite rightly demands strict limits on access to deadly weapons, especially military grade weapons. The commission decided to ignore this important issue, which the NAASP called “willful ignorance.” As expected, the commission recommended arming school personnel, a proposal strongly opposed by teachers, who fear collateral damage, the danger of guns left in the wrong places, and bullets flying from every direction.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals released this statement:


NASSP Statement on Final Report of Federal Commission on School Safety

Contact: Bob Farrace, NASSP, farraceb@nassp.org, 703-860-7252

Rezton, VA –NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti issued the following statement on the final report of the Federal Commission on School Safety:

It is puzzling that the Federal Commission on School Safety would spend seven months and untold tax dollars on rediscovering well-known school safety strategies, in part a subset of the more comprehensive Framework for Safe and Successful Schools. In any case, we welcome the Commission’s voice to our common call for greater attention to the mental health both of our students and to those who might do them harm.
Yet the Commission compromises its own credibility by staying mute on the issue of firearm access and other prevention efforts that reduce the need to turn schools into fortresses. Guns in the wrong hands is a common element in school shootings. The Commission’s failure to address that element—with even the most sensible and noncontroversial recommendations–is nothing short of willful ignorance. Equally obtuse is the Commission’s guidance for arming school personnel–remarkably the only federal guidance this administration does not perceive as intrusive and burdensome, on a notion rejected by a consensus of education organizations and the educators, parents, and students they represent.

Rescinding Discipline Guidance

There is no disputing that racial disparities persist in suspensions and expulsions, and the evidence shows that schools that address the true causes of the gaps see a more positive culture and fewer violent incidents. In schools that adopt restorative practices in place of exclusionary practices, minority students see more time in school, resulting in higher achievement and fewer referrals to juvenile justice systems. The guidance encouraged many schools to find ways to help students succeed rather than react to behaviors that accelerate their failure, and therefore direct students on a path to prosperity rather than prison. There should be no argument that these effects are good things. But in strikingly convoluted and sadly predictable fashion, the Commission asserts without foundation that this non-binding guidance makes school less safe. The conclusion is offensive, it’s infuriating, it’s nonsensical, and it will assuredly lead to the result the administration wanted all along.

Secretary DeVos in particular has demonstrated time and again her dexterity in undoing efforts to enforce the rights of vulnerable student populations. Yet this discipline-disparity crisis is not one she can just kick to the states or private-school-voucher away. The secretary must now act with purpose to fulfill the Department’s expressed mission of “prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.” Otherwise she cements her status as a champion among the defenders of the status quo she so often derides. Without the force of law, the guidance could quietly persist to exercise persuasive influence and provide principals cover as they do the right thing often against strong political headwinds. By proposing to rescind the guidance, this administration only intensifies the headwind, sending a clear and dismissive message to our most vulnerable students.

Peter Greene asks us to imagine a country that cared about the loss of innocent lives.

Imagine.

Has it been six years? It seems forever, and yet it seems yesterday.

There will be many retro pieces today, looking at the events at Sandy Hook, the children, the families, the killer, the damaged whack jobs who have denied its existence, and of course many reflections about the turning point where we chose as a culture not to turn.

I’ll leave all of that to others. I just want to imagine.

Imagine a country where people rose up and said decades ago, “Guns are nice and important and all, but nothing is more valuable than the lives of innocents. We’re going to have reasonable gun controls in this country before another young life is lost.” Don’t imagine it happening after Sandy Hook. Imagine it years earlier, after the death of just one or two children by gunfire. In this world, Sandy Hook is just one more small school most people never heard of.

Imagine that when people marched against abortion, they simultaneously marched against gun violence. “We are pro-life,” they yelled, “and that means that we want to see every step necessary to preserve the lives of children.” Imagine a world in which pro-life activists chained themselves to the gates of gun factories and shamed gun company executives on their way to work every day.

Imagine that these attitudes were part of a culture wide valuing of children, a culture that loved children so much that it took extraordinary steps to preserve their lives. The government provided free health care for every single child, regardless of family income. People brought their children here from other countries for our free health care and we said, “Great. Bring them. Children are so precious and valuable that we wouldn’t sleep knowing that there was a suffering child in the world that we could have helped, but didn’t.”

Imagine that this love of children extended to education. In fact, imagine that education was one of the biggest budget items for federal and state spending. “Nothing is too good for our children,” said political leaders. “We will make sure that every school has nothing but the newest and best facilities and enough qualified teachers that class sizes can be small. Every child has the personal attention of excellent teachers, and that goes double for children growing up in poor neighborhoods.” Not all the politicians believed this, of course, but in this world, the only way you could get elected was by being a good friend to public schools. And no, there aren’t any charters or vouchers in this world– why would you need them when every public school had the very best in resources, staff and facilities, with the necessary resources to meet the individual needs of each child. “Man,” groused the Pentagon in this world. “I wish we could get the kind of unwavering support public schools get. We have to fight and scrape and argue for every cent.”