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Sunday, October 5, 2014

We Rely on Tattletales and Feedback to Stop School Shootings

Bill Bond was principal at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky in 1997 when over the course of 12 seconds, one of his students shot and killed three classmates, wounded five more, then put the gun in Bond's hand. The shooter was 14 at the time. Michael Carneal was later sentenced to life in prison.

Bond stayed on at Heath long enough to see survivors graduate. The school's culture changed overnight, he said, to one of support and trust. After three funerals, the bullies changed.

After Bond retired from school administration, he built another career. He is the school safety specialist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Bond spends a lot of time talking to high schoolers about security. When it comes to shootings, Bond calls himself a cynic. He tells them to pay attention to what they hear and tell people who can help. That, he promises, works.

(Jamie Gumbrecht. "What Really Makes Schools Safer?" CNN. December 13, 2013)

After Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, security experts say there is a hard reality for every school, politician and parent to accept.

"There is not a single safety measure that anyone could have put in place at that school (Sandy Hook) that would have stopped what happened," says Bill Bond, the school safety specialist for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "When you allow absolutely insane people to arm themselves like they're going to war, they go to war."

"In a school, your only real protection is kids trusting you with information," Bond confesses. "If they don't trust you with information and someone is planning to do something, it's a matter of how many will be killed before you kill him."

The one consistency, he says, is that the shooters are males confronting hopelessness. "You see troubled young men who are desperate and they strike out and they don't see that they have any hope," Bond says. Other experts see common elements of ceremonial violence in the profile of generally smart kids infatuated with guns, suffering from social isolation, with apparently normal families who often hide troubling secrets of abuse and neglect. Bond continues ...

"It's a problem that can be solved with more caring. I don't think it's a problem that can be solved with more security. We've made huge strides with cameras and lockdown procedures. But I can't think of anything at Sandy Hook that would have made a difference. 

"All of our security is based on we can deter a person because our force is greater than force and we will ultimately imprison you or we will kill you. But that's not a deterrent to people, the in-school shootings. So, your normal deterrents, what people think is normal deterrents, have no effect on this."

 (Rachel Martin. "Former Kentucky School Administrator Recalls 1997 Shooting." 
National Public Radio. December 16, 2012)

Authors of  Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill : A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano offer incontrovertible evidence, based on recent major scientific studies and empirical research, that movies, TV, and video games are not just conditioning children to be violent--and unaware of the consequences of that violence--but are teaching the very mechanics of killing. The authors find that $10 billion-a-year industry has been created, here in the United States, that is using the most mind-deadening behavior-modification techniques, to turn our nation's youth into unnatural-born killers.

The new epidemic sweeping the country, which Grossman and DeGaetano call ``AVIDS''--Acquired Violence Immune System Deficiency Syndrome is no cute play on words. The authors document, that exposing children to television, movie, and video violence during the formative years of brain functioning, can cause permanent damage, in the same way that babies born to crack addicts and other drug abusers can be permanently impaired.

The book shows that, since no later than the 1970s, the medical profession has repeatedly, publicly warned, that rampant exposure to media violence destroys cognitive capabilities, desensitizes children to the consequences of their own violent actions, and produces automatic stimulant-response patterns of behavior, often leading to tragic results, such as the larger body counts at Littleton, Paducah, Jonesboro, Conyers, etc. 

In a particularly powerful chapter, "Feel Something When You Kill,'' the authors reveal that the very "operant-conditioning techniques'' used by the military and police agencies in training their troops to kill without compunction, are the basis for the increasingly lucrative point-and-shoot video-game "industry.''

"'There are three things you need in order to shoot and kill effectively and efficiently,' the authors write. 'From a soldier in Vietnam to an eleven-year-old in Jonesboro, anyone who does not have all three will essentially fail in any endeavor to kill.'
"First, you need a gun. Next you need the skill to hit a target with that gun. And finally you need the will to use that gun. The gun, the skill, and the will. Of these three factors, the military knows that the killing simulator takes care of two out of three by nurturing both the skill and the will to kill a fellow human being. Operant conditioning is a very powerful procedure of stimulus-response training, which gives a person the skill to act under stressful conditions."
 (Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano. Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill : A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence.First edition 1999 revised 2014)

The book continues with the punch line:
"Now these simulators are in our homes and arcades--in the form of violent video games! If you don't believe us, you should know that one of the most effective and widely used simulators developed by the United States Army in recent years, MACS (Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator), is nothing more than a modified Super Nintendo game (in fact, it closely resembles the popular game Duck Hunt).... The FATS trainer (Fire Arms Training Simulator), used by most law enforcement agencies in this country, is more or less identical to the ultra-violent video arcade game Time Crisis.''
Grossman and DeGaetano reveal that the school shooter in Paducah, Kentucky, Michael Carneal,  stole a gun from a neighbor's house, brought it to school and fired eight shots at a student prayer group as they were breaking up.

Prior to stealing this weapon, Carneal had never shot an actual handgun before. Of the eight shots he fired, he had eight hits on eight different kids. Five were head shots, the other three upper torso. The result was three dead, one paralyzed for life.

The FBI says that the average, experienced, qualified law enforcement officer, in the average shoot-out, at an average range of seven yards, hits with less than one bullet in five. How does a child acquire such killing ability. What would lead him to go out and commit such a horrific act? 

Their book is a call to action for every parent, teacher, and citizen to help American children and stop the wave of killing and violence gripping the youth of the country. And, most important, the authors believe it is a blueprint for all Americans on how that can be achieved.

Solutions With Some High Degree of Guarantee

Bill Bond offers useful, important deterrence information while acknowledging nothing is foolproof in preventing school shootings.

This blog entry strongly suggests taking Bond's advice and teaching the student body to share all potentially harmful information with school authorities who must, in turn, take all threats seriously and thoroughly investigate the sources. For students, this breaks the associative rules of not squealing on friends and fellow students; however, if even one major disturbance is thwarted, the "tattletale philosophy" is a huge key for success while being proactive against abnormally aggressive students.

Grossman and DeGaetano write of something we all have known for years. Monitoring violence in media and video games is more important than adult's obsessive attempts to shield young children from sexual content. Isn't it amazing that our society has accepted graphic, violent, realistic games and think nothing of placing them in the hands of children? The unacceptable attitude is "Oh, they are just games and fantasy that doesn't affect the kids' behavior." No, these violent games are not just cartoons or funny facsimiles of "shooting a boogieman."

It is unthinkable that "insane people" will continue "to arm themselves and go to war." Yet, they will. Securing our children in safe environments becomes our duty. Finding the absolute best ways to prevent them from getting hurt or killed must be our goal. Installing risky programs and faulty deterrents is no good. We have to find the core problems, fix them, and continue to upgrade security in manners that insure greater success.

What do I think about arming teachers with guns. I don't like the idea at all. I have given my reasons for denouncing the practice in prior blog entries.

Even as incredibly effective as the heavily armed Secret Service is, more than 20 attempts have been carried out to kill sitting and former presidents, as well as the President-elect. I have heard it said that assassinating the leader of the free world is possible, and no measures can insure the President's safety.

Author and professor of political science James Clarke argues for a classification of Presidential assassins based on social contextual as well as situational and diagnostic evidence. He identifies four types of assassins, as well as a residual of "atypicals." 

Type I (political actors) whose extremism is rational, selfless, principled, and without perversity,

Type II (neurotics) and IV (psychotics) are analogous to emotional reactors

Type III (psychopaths, sociopaths) is analogous to hired killers, and 

Type IV (psychotics) are analogous to emotional reactors.
(James W. Clarke. American Assassins: The Darker Side of Politics. 
Princeton University Press. 1990)

We must put resources into psychological evaluations of all school-aged children, including investigation in all home conditions where these students live. And, by the way, before some schools believe in putting guns in the hands of classroom teachers, be sure that all teachers have been psychologically evaluated, had their police records checked, and have submitted to mandatory drug testing.

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