|Expert details how to prevent school shootings
|Posted: Monday, May 25, 2009 8:56 am
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|Leading U.S. Army soldiers as an Airborne Ranger didn’t compare to the stark terror Ret. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman experienced learning about a middle school shooting March 24, 1998 in his hometown of Jonesboro, Ark.
“I cannot tell you the horror” of learning about a school shooting with his son in middle school, Grossman said.
“It was the worst day of my life,” Grossman said, explaining only later he learned it wasn’t his son’s middle school.
He responded where a 13-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy “mercilessly slaughtered” 13 girls and two teachers. One girl was the only child of a single mother who sent her “baby to school, trusting us to keep her safe,” Grossman said.
After Grossman helped train first responders in Jonesboro, he responded to school shootings in Paducah, Ky., Springfield, Ore., Littleton, Col., Virginia Tech and the Nickel Mines Amish School.
Those experiences prompted him to form “Killology” (killology.com), a new field to understanding violent crimes with emphasis on preventing children from killing other children.
Grossman spoke passionately about his experiences when he addressed about 200 educators and law enforcement officers recently during a one-day “Terrorism at Schools and Bulletproofing the Mind” seminar at Blackman High School. His day-long presentation was sponsored by Sheriff Truman Jones and the Rutherford County School Resource Officers and School Superintendent Harry Gill and Rutherford County Schools.
Riverdale Assistant Principal Robert James said Grossman addressed both school and national security, topics every American should hear.
The high school routinely practices lockdowns and drills, leading the assistant principal to believe students would respond accordingly.
James said Grossman noted it’s important for people to learn they have to fight back, especially challenging school shooters who usually are not physically strong.
“When your life is at stake and you have no other choice when you’re facing someone with evil intent, you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself,” James said.
SRO Maj. Bill Kennedy said some of Grossman’s suggestions were or will be implemented in county schools.
“He gave great ideas and new training to better protect our schools,” Kennedy said. “It was extremely relevant training.”
Lt. Bill West said people can’t be in denial.
“We’ve got to be reminded of events and always fight denial,” West said.
Through research, Grossman learned every school killer in the U.S. shared an obsession with media violence, immersing themselves in violent video games.
“Media violence causes violence in our society, TV, movies and games,” Grossman said, quoting studies from several physicians’ groups. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports video games teach kids to kill.
While there is no profile of school killers, Grossman said shooters carried guns and grievances and lacked participation in sports, hobbies, martial arts, school groups, church and scouting.
Grossman called on teachers to place a moratorium on violence in writing.
If teachers don’t take action, they give students permission to succeed.
For example, the two boys who killed students at Columbine 10 years ago presented teachers with a video showing a “dress rehearsal” of the shooting by throwing guns around. Their teacher showed the video to the principal who suggested she give them a grade. The principal is now an avid supporter of banning school violence.
Grossman refuses to speak aloud shooters’ names.
“They want to carve their name in history in your children’s body and blood,” Grossman said.
Grossman compared the millions of dollars schools spend to prevent fires and the few dollars spent to prevent school shootings.
“We must prepare for the unthinkable,” Grossman said.
For example, a shooter killed every student on a school bus in 1970 in Israel. Since then, an armed guard rides every school bus.
“From that day on, every school in Israel has been a fortress” and an armed guard rides every school bus.
Grossman discussed his 5 Ds of denial, deter, detect, delay and destroy.
People are in denial, believing a school shooting will never occur in their hometown.
Regarding deterrence, Grossman said he didn’t know of any case where multiple homicides occurred at a school when a police officer was present. He believes thousands of school shootings were averted because a police officer was assigned to a school.
“The ultimate achievement is a crime that didn’t happen,” Grossman said.
Teachers may detect potential problems if a student writes about violence.
Other suggestions for educators include:
• Banning baggy “gang” pants designed to allow students to conceal weapons. School uniforms should be implemented and strictly enforced.
• Creating a “no bully” zone in the school to prevent violence.
• Implementing a “no humor” zone, taking any threat of violence seriously.
• Prohibiting media violence on campus.
To delay a school shooting, Grossman recommended:
• Locking down the school at all times.
• Keeping only a single point of entry by controlling access at the front door.
• Locking classroom doors.
But he cautioned police and educators they must be prepared to destroy the shooter.
“Lockdown doesn’t mean lay down and die,” Grossman said, explaining if someone is shooting, move students away from the threat to a safe location like getting out a window.
At Virginia Tech, professor and Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu, 76, tried to keep the gunman out while his students jumped out a window. He was one of 33 people killed in the April 17, 2007 massacre.
Student Matthew La Porte, a military institute graduate studying for degrees in leadership and political science, rushed the gunman. He was shot eight times, an act Grossman described as “most horrifying.”
What was more horrifying to Grossman was that other students didn’t rush to help La Porte.
Grossman saw photographs of dead students still sitting in their chairs who did nothing to fight.
“Nothing haunted me like that,” Grossman said.
He urged police officers to be prepared on and off duty by preparing response plans including other emergency services and armed citizens and carrying extra ammunition and weapons like rifles.
Parents delegate students to school resource officers “and you’d better be ready,” Grossman said.
Ban cell phones on campus so students can’t jam the cell phones during an emergency.
In Utah, teachers carry weapons on school grounds, he said, adding, Utah has not experienced any school shooting fatalities.
Grossman said parents must take responsibility for their children’s activities and media time.
He cited a University of Indiana brain scan research project showing media violence stunts a child’s brain development. Children exposed to violent TV movie and video games showed reduced brain function. After several day of detoxing, their brains improved.
A Stanford University Medical School student showed children watch about 45 hours of TV per week.
Grossman recommended parents put their children on a TV and games diet, limiting them to only seven hours a week of nonviolent shows and games. A study of parents who followed the recommendation showed violence and bullying dropped 50 percent, obesity dropped and school attendance increased.
Also, parents should prohibit violent music filled with hate and fear.
“If you don’t tell your kid it’s not OK, your kid becomes a killer,” Grossman said.
At the end of his presentation, Grossman talked about the mothers who sent their children to school at Jonesboro, Columbine and Virginia Tech.
“We will not fail again,” Grossman vowed. “Education is the only transformational tool society has.”