Edclick

Edclicking

By Dr. Harry Tennant

Edclicking

by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: prevention
Posts 1 - 11 of 11

Friday, August 31, 2018

Who assembles the clues?

Michael wrote a Halloween story for English class in which the main character killed other students at the school in gruesome ways. No doubt the English teacher was concerned. With the hundreds or thousands of students' writing assignments that the English teacher had seen over the years, this one wasn't unique, but it was concerning. But it was Halloween. It wouldn't be an emergency. It isn't evidence that Michael was planning a violent attack. In other words, this story didn't indicate that Michael posed a threat. But the English teacher would keep it in mind.

Now imagine that Michael's history teacher got a paper on the history of terror attacks. And Michael's chemistry teacher got a research report on explosives. And Michael's art teacher got a drawing depicting violence. They might each be concerned but, like the English teacher, what they were seeing from Michael was not that unusual in the context of all the students that each had worked with.

But now imagine that all of those teachers happened to be together chatting before a faculty meeting and the English teacher happened to mention the story that was bothering her. Then the history teacher chimed in, then the chemistry teacher, then the art teacher. And then the gym teacher added that Michael has seemed unsually withdrawn recently. A larger and more worrisome picture starts to emerge. It still isn't proof that Michael poses a threat but it would warrent some investigation, more questions to be asked and a warning to be on the lookout for other related incidents. Multiple sources do indicate that Michael is doing a lot of thinking about violence. But serendipitous meetings like this are not only unlikely but particularly unlikely to occur  reliably in a timely fashion.

One defense against school violence that is missing in most schools is a way for teachers to register concerns about a student so that different concerns from different sources can be aggregated. The collection may reinforce or refute the question of whether Michael poses a threat to safety.

Edclick's School Safety Manager is a central collection site that goes through the school counselor and administrator so that somebody sees it all and can put the pieces together.

By the way, a student named Michael did write a Halloween story like that for English class. Just after Thanksgiving, he shot and killed three students and injured five more. People said, no one saw it coming.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Do metal detectors deter school shooters?

When we talk about school shooters, most often we're talking about those shooters who go on a rampage, killing and injuring lots of students and faculty. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Pakland, Florida. Santa Fe, Texas.

Metal detectors reveal concealed weapons. In cases where rampage shooters encounter metal detectors, they shoot the person monitoring the metal detector as the first victim. Shoot that person and go on in.

Metal detectors are a deterrent to shooters who expect to survive the attack. Gang shootings. A jealous boyfriend. A drug deal gone bad.

What about security cameras? Same answer. Rampage shooters are often looking for the notoriety that a high body count will bring them. After their death. Security cameras can be seen as part of the media package, not a deterrent. But they would deter a shooter for whom the shooting is "just business."

In the effort to eliminate the horror of rampage shootings in schools, a lot of things are being done that are unlikely to have an effect. Making the school a more hardened target is based on the concept that when a rampage shooter walks up to the door with a duffel bag of guns and ammo, you'll be able to turn him away with metal detectors, stronger locks and security cameras.

The time to prevent a rampage shooting is before he's attacking. The earlier the better.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Create a process, then stick to it!

Consider the case of Joshua Henry (true story, not his real name.)

A conversation was overheard in the library. The librarian was alarmed that Joshua used the nickname Shooter. He also seemed to have an unusual interest in violence and seemed like the shooter "type," wearing a long duster jacket and being a loner. The librarian was concerned and notified an assistant principal. The AP immediately followed up and opened an inquiry.

Police were sent with a warrant to search Joshua's house. Secured guns were found in the house and removed (with the owner’s consent). However, the Threat Level was increased, not decreased. The excuse for increasing the threat level was to enable the school to offer Joshua a greater range of interventions. But in fact, no interventions were ever offered to Joshua. His backpack and locker were subjected to random searches over the next few weeks. A pair of rounded end scissors was found in his backpack and confiscated, probably a less lethal weapon than a pencil.

Joshua was highly stressed by the episode and searches and dropped out of school. This is not what a threat assessment is for.

The case should not have been handled this way.

The most obvious aspect of this case was there was no evidence of intent to commit violence. No target, no plan, no steps taken. The assistant principal should have started his inquiry by talking to the boys whose conversation was overheard. They would have said they did not say that Joshua called himself Shooter. The librarian later admitted that she may have misheard.

The boys in the library were never interviewed by the AP and the misunderstanding was never discovered. The dubious profile of a shooter consisting of a loner wearing a duster was taken as significant rather than irrelevant. 

It is important to define threat level criteria and process steps to take when a threat level is assigned. But then the process must be followed. Stories and facts must be checked. Some judgement must be applied to answer the question, does this make sense? And most important, we must remember that a few personality traits or teen fashion choices do not predict a violent attack. We are looking for evidence of a plan and preparation for violence.

Keep in mind when conducting a threat assessment that we want to protect children in two ways. We obviously want to protect them from the unlikely but terribly tragic possibility of serious school violence. At the same time, we want to protect students from undisciplined investigations and unjustified accusations. An organized process helps in both ways.

So, this school had a process in place to follow in case of a potential threat of violence. The one problem? They didn't follow it. They immediately jumped to the conclusion that they had an imminent shooting incident on their hands and didn't take the most obvious first step of talking to the sources. And there was some real harm done: to Joshua who was guilty of nothing.

In School Safety Manager we're senstive to the risk of false positive errors like that made in Joshua's case. We articulate processes to follow but are aware that with a product that isn't used every day, processes may be forgotten. For that reason, the processes are front-and-center, hard to miss. They're presented as ordered checklists to discourage people from skipping important steps. Our product is designed to help prevent incidents of school violence and, at the same time, we've given attention to preventing false and stressful accusations of innocent students.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

When does a concern become a threat?

We have concerns about students who are at risk of serious emotional problems. They are students who may need more attention than others. In School Safety Manager, we are particularly concerned about students who may be at risk of violent behavior.

We may be concerned about a student who seems socially withdrawn. Or who has such poorly developed social skills that he is rejected by others. We may be concerned about another who plays a lot of violent video games. Or yet another may write an essay or do an art project that depicts violence. These things may cause concerns but they do not pose a threat. A threat is based on actions taken.

We are concerned about students who have been involved in violent or highly aggressive incidents. That might might include fights, bullying, intimidation or gang activity.

It may be surprising to some that that many of the students who become shooters are not the bullies or the intimidators. Students who become shooters are often kids who have been the target of bullying or intimidation. They strike back with disproportional violence.

Andy was a 15-year old student at Santana High School in 2001. He had been a frequent target of bullying. One might have been concerned about the toll that frequent bullying was taking on Andy. Providing support for students who were bullied was rare. Bullying was often thought of an unfortunate part of young life for some kids. 

Students that we become concerned about usually do not pose a threat. Also, noticing students that we have concerns about and that we offer support, can often be helped to deal with their stresses and thereby diminish them.

A few of these stressed students may begin plotting revenge. They may start creating a plan of violent revenge. If the student starts planning violent retaliation, he or she is starting to pose a threat. If preparations are being made, the threat is increasing. That may include collecting weapons and ammunition. Or learning how to build bombs and run some experiments on homemade bombs. Or learning all about the details of mass shootings and terroristic attacks in schools or elsewhere. Or rehearsing an attack at the school or perhaps in a violent game.

The more time the student spends on plans, preparations and rehearsals, the greater the building threat. These steps take time. It may take days or weeks or even many months. And that is time when the planning may be discovered and derailed. During this time it is also common that the planner mentions his plan to others. Some may describe the plan in detail or it may be hinted at crypticly saying something like, "Something big is going to happen on Monday."

When a plan for violence is discovered, the challenge now becomes turning the student around, away from violence. That's not easy. It won't be done by a quick punishment. One of the worst approaches is to expel the student. That just adds one more grievance to the list and it cuts off your communication. And like the expelled-student-turned-shooter in Parland, Florida showed, expelling a student doesn't keep him from becoming a shooter.

Back to Andy. We don't know when exactly he started plotting revenge toward his tormentors. We know that he once tried to talk with a school counselor but was told to return to class because the counselor was busy. He didn't try again. Andy spoke on two occassions about a plan to "pull a Columbine" at Santana High School. This evidence of a plan for violence would be a key turning point, changing our thoughts about Andy from concern to one who poses a threat. Administrators and law enforcement would be notified, his peers and family would be talked to, more details would be sought about plans, preparations, targets, rehearsals and weapons. Parents would be asked about weapons in the home and suggest that they be removed temporarily. The main question is whether Andy is actually planning and preparing for violence or was it just an offhand remark or even a bad joke?

But the students to whom he mentioned that he'd "pull a Columbine," apparently unaware of their duty to warn, did not tell any adults at the school. Within a week, Andy came to school with his father's .22-caliber revolver and started shooting. In a few minutes he shot 15 people, two of whom died. He told investigators that he was "tired of being bullied." Andy, now 32, is serving 50 years to life in Ironwood State Prison.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps schools prevent student violence.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Can you empower students to prevent school violence?

A student planned to shoot students in the lobby of his school prior to the beginning of classes. He told two friends exactly what he had planned and asked three other students to meet him in the mezzanine overlooking the school lobby the morning of the planned attack, ostensibly so these students would be out of harm's way. On most mornings, few students would congregate in the mezzanine before the school day began. However, on the morning of the attack, word about what was going to happen spread to such an extent that, by the time the attacker opened fire in his school lobby, 24 students had gathered in the mezzanine waiting for the attack to begin. One student who knew about the attacker's plans brought a camera so that he could take pictures of the event.

from Threat Assessment in Schools by the US Secret Service and Department of Education

A key to preventing school violence is convincing students that they have a duty to warn adults at school if they suspect the possibility of a violent event. Any thoughts of a code of silence among students do not apply to such serious events. Students may petition governments to change laws to make schools safer but the most direct action to take is for students to warn of imminent acts of violence and to have an administrative system to back them up.

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Do you have concerns about a student?

When a student has misbehaved, we often create an office referral. Consequences may be assigned.

But what if you just have concerns about a student? What if he or she hasn't done anything wrong but you're worried that there may be serious issues under the surface? In School Safety Manager we call these "concerns."

In the days before Thanksgiving break in 1997 a 14-year old student at Heath High School told a number of other students that "something big is going to happen on Monday." As far as anyone knew, he hadn't done anything wrong, but this was an odd and chilling thing to hear. It might have registered as concerning. It might have been worth telling a teacher, counselor or administrator. None of the students who heard it bothered to notify any of the adults in the school.

What they didn't know was that this student had been stealing weapons and ammunition for the past several weeks. Four .22 rifles, a 30-30 rifle, a .22 pistol and two shotguns. Something big did happen on Monday, December 1, 1997. When he got to school he shot into a prayer group killing three girls and wounding five other students. He then dropped his gun and surrendered to the school principal. He said, "Kill me, please. I don't know why I did that." The entire incident had taken place in less than 10 minues.

School shooters almost always reveal their plans before they carry them out. Most commonly, the people they tell are fellow students.

If a shooting like this is to be prevented, there must be a way to register "concerns" like the chilling warning about Monday. Counselors, administrators and law enforcement must be ready to look into concerns, especially those that suggest violence. Also, students must be convinced that they have a duty to warn if a student seems to be making a threat or hinting at imminent violence.

Could registering a concern have lead to preventing three murdered girls, five wounded kids and a lingering loss of the feeling of safety and security at Heath High School? Maybe so.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The shooter slipped through the cracks

Following the school shooting at Santa Fe High School in May, 2018, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that the 17 year old shooter's journal showed 

"not only did he want to commit this shooting, but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting, planned on doing this for some time. He advertised his intentions but somehow slipped through the cracks."

The student's journals have not been made public. We must rely on what Governor Abbott and others who have access to them tell us.

The conclusion that he "planned on doing this for some time" is consistent with the preparations made for the attack. He not only came to school with a shotgun and a .38 calibre revolver. He also apparently brought multiple improvised explosive devices, pressure cookers, Molotov cocktaills, pipe bombs, propane tanks and other homemade explosives that were found around the school and parking lot. It takes some time to construct an armory like that.

"Slipped through the cracks"

The Duty to Warn

What do we mean when we say someone slipped through the cracks? The Governor said the shooter "advertised his intentions." We can't know exactly what this means without reading the journals but in the majority of cases like these where planning and preparation for violence is going on, the planner tells or hints to others what he's up to. Law enforcement calls this "leakage." "Falling through the cracks" could mean that the people who learned of the plans and preparations didn't report it or didn't understand it. The people who learned of the plans were most likely fellow students. They are most commonly the recipients of "leakage."

The way to seal this crack is to 

  1. Make students aware of the duty to warn, i.e., tell teachers or staff what is going on.
  2. Make students aware of what constitutes a developing threat: developing a plan or preparation or rehearsal for violent acts. Was he building and trying out his explosive devicees? That poses a threat.

Assembling the Puzzle Over Time

Another common way for something to slip through the cracks is when information trickles in over time from various sources. Sometimes it's hard to know when various pieces belong to the same puzzle. But with school violence, that tends to be simplified. Pieces can be organized around one or two individuals. Secondly, if you have an information collection place, pieces of information can be aggregated over time, organized by the individual posing the threat.

This is exactly what Edclick's School Safety Manager is designed to do. It allows people to express "concerns" about a student. A concern doesn't mean the student has done anything wrong, but that he might be at risk of becoming violent. Next, School Safety Manager is a collection point for accumulating more information about a student. And a team can assess whether there is a threat and how severe that threat is. Interventions can be assigned. The student's behavior with respect to planning and preparing for violence can be monitored. Ideally, the interventions are effective and the threat is reduced or goes away.

In the case of this student at Santa Fe High School, if he hadn't "slipped through the cracks" 10 deceased classmates would be starting a new school year right now and 13 others would not be dealing with their healing gunshot wounds.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Schools everywhere are taking steps to confront school violence

State funding has increased. Federal funding is increasing. Parents are demanding change. Students are marching saying, "save our lives."

The demand to eliminate school shootings is stronger than ever. Yet, the politicians are stuck on the question of eliminating guns.

Can't anything constructive be done? Yes, it can. Some schools are "hardening the target," making schools more difficult to attack. Others are taking steps to improve their crisis response so that once an attack is in progress, a good crisis response will minimize the casualties.

But we don't want any casualties. We don't want to simply respond more effectively to a shooter with an AR15 and a duffelbag of high capacity magazines. That's not good enough.

The Columbine shooters had prepared for more than a year prior to their attack. Their plan was to detonate a bomb in the cafeteria killing and injuring hundreds, then pick off survivors with their guns. The bomb didn't go off. All of the shocking carnage at Columbine was merely a backup because the bomb, the main event, didn't work. Let's say it had exploded. Would an efficient crisis management plan following a cafeteria explosion been anywhere near satisfactory?

We must prevent school violence, not just respond to it efficiently. The Columbine students-turned-killers planned and prepared and practiced their attack for over a year. Others heard of the plans but they weren't taken seriously enough.

We can prevent school violence if we convince students that they have a duty to warn the school if plans of violence are being made, regardless of whether the reporter thinks they'll really go through with it. We can prevent school violence if we collect evidence and monitor students who concern us and intervene with students who seem to pose a threat and track threats over time to see if the interventions are working.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Friday, August 10, 2018

It's not our problem. It hasn't happened here.

Virtually all school shootings occur at schools that had never before had a school shooting.

Some educators think that school violence is someone else's problem. That it happens at violent schools, not at schools like ours.

Sorry, that's not true. School shootings happen at schools that haven't previously had school shootings. It is true that after a school shooting, the incidence of students coming to school with weapons sometimes increases. But when shootings actually take place, it's in schools that haven't had a shooting before.

A lot can be done to prevent school shootings but pretending that "that couldn't happen here" is not one of the effective strategies.

 

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps identify kids in distress and provide support.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Do your students understand their duty to warn?

After the tragic Parkland, Florida school shooting, many students there became politically active. They wanted the state and Federal governments to do something about this apparently relentless pattern of school shootings.

Students have organized hundreds of March For Our Lives marches across the country. They advocate stricter gun control. We all know the difficulties they face in trying to change gun laws in the United States.

But there is another action that every student nationwide can take immediately that faces no political obstacles and can be put in place immediately: accept the Duty to Warn.

Nearly every school shooter takes time planning and preparing for his or her attack. And along the way, nearly all of them share their plans and intentions with at least one other student. In many cases, they tell many other students.

Students often believe that they must adhere to an unwritten code of silence: you don't tell teachers or administrators about what other students are doing.

It's one thing to practice the code of silence for minor rule infractions. It's quite another to think that a plot for a school shooting falls under the code of silence. It does not.

Students have a duty to warn when they learn of a plan that a student intends violence toward himself or toward others. It must be made clear to all students that they must tell adults at the school what is happening.

The law requires that professionals who operate under confidentiality must breach confidentiality if their client poses an imminent threat to himself, the professional or third parties. Likewise, students must understand that they have a responsility to breach confidentiality, i.e., break the code of silence, when they learn that another student is making plans or preparations to do harm.

This doesn't require an act of Congress. We don't need to make a Federal case of it. We do need to get it across to students that the best way to eliminate school killings is to prevent violent acts. And the most important key to prevention is for those students who learn about threats - and some almost always do - must accept their duty to warn by notifying a teacher or admnistrator that a student is planning violence. Maybe each of the hundreds of March for Our Lives events should include a chance for each student to sign a simple pledge, acknowledging the duty to warn as one of the easiest ways to save students from violent attacks.

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps educators express concerns about certain students, evaluate the threats that they may pose and intervene to reduce and eliminate threats.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence, duty to warn, code of silence

 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Are you trying to prevent student violence?

We see two common responses to school violence.

  1. Crisis Response and
  2. Prevention

Tragically, with all the school shootings, schools must be prepared to respond to a crisis. Effecitive crisis response can help to minimize the killings. Unfortunately, in many cases, the shooter has left the building by the time law enforcement arrives, as in the case of the shooting in Parkland, Florida and many others.

Even if an armed shooter arrives on campus and doesn't shoot anyone, there are already casualties. The first casualty is the armed shooter himself. Typically a student, his young life is already ruined by merely showing up as a shooter. The other casualty is the loss of the feeling of security and safety that was once felt by students, parents and the community.

Schools must attend to crisis response but we recommend giving serious attention to prevention. Because, in most cases, school shootings are preventable.

How can school violence be prevented? The Secret Service and FBI recommend prevention based on the following observations.

  • School shooters don't just "snap"
  • School shootings are typically planned, prepared and rehearsed over days, weeks, months or longer
  • During the planning and preparation period, potential school shooters almost always tell others about their plans
  • At any time during the planning and preparation period, the potential shooter can be turned around 

The last bullet is the key, that potential shooters can be turned around and not become actual shooters. 

How many lives are saved if a potential shooter can be turned around? How much more secure do students, staff and the community feel if the plans and preparations never materialize?

Edclick's School Safety Manager helps schools identify students who might pose a threat of violence and helps administrators, counselors and other professionals to monitor the success and progress of interventions to reduce and eliminate the threat.

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Keywords: School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence

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