Friday, December 14, 2012

The Nightmare Scenario

27 Dead, Including 20 Children, 
At School Shooting In Connecticut

This from The Hartford Courant:
Twenty-seven people, including 20 children, are dead after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman killed himself inside the school.

Another person was found dead at 36 Yogananda St. in Newtown, sources told The Courant.

The shootings at the school took place in two rooms, one of which is a kindergarten classroom, sources said. One entire classroom is unaccounted for.

The shooter is dead inside the school, and the situation is secure, said State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance.
Students described being ushered from their classrooms hand-in-hand, with their eyes closed, to the safety of a nearby fire station as police converged on the school.

There were conflicting reports about the identity of the shooter. The state police have not identified him.

Several news outlets, including The Associated Press and CNN, initially identified the shooter as Ryan Lanza and said his younger brother was being held for questioning as a possible second shooter.
The Associated Press is now reporting that the suspect is Adam Lanza, the younger brother, and that the older brother is being questioned.

CNN is no longer identifying the shooter.

A law enforcement official said the boys' mother, Nancy Lanza, works at the school as a teacher. The Associated Press is reporting that she is presumed dead.

The official also said Ryan Lanza's girlfriend and another friend are missing in New Jersey.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way, said the gunman apparently had two guns. A law enforcement official in Washington said one of the guns was a .223-caliber rifle.  

President Obama, in an emotional address to the nation Friday afternoon, said "These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children."

“I know there’s not a parent in American who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do," he said. "The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. … They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own."

“Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to help their children achieve their dreams,” he said.

Like other parents around the country, Obama said, “This evening, Michelle and I will ... hug our children a little tighter and tell them that we love them … but there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight.”

“While nothing can fill the space of a lost child or a loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for the ones they have lost will endure in their memories but also in ours.” ... 

Courant Editorial:  

Unimaginable Sorrow

Children Killed: State stunned; 

mourns loss of life at a school

Not again. Here. In a school.

All over Connecticut Friday, people greeted each other with downcast eyes and a few mumbled words. Many cried, churches opened for prayer, events were canceled. Some veteran police officers and news reporters found it hard to keep their composure. Even the president struggled for composure while speaking of the deaths.

The day felt, to some who remember it, like the chilly day in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

Now, as then, the entire state was stunned, dumbstruck, heartbroken. What could drive a fellow human being to walk into a school, a nurturing place, and begin shooting and brutally killing innocent children and educators? What depth of grief for parents who happily sent their beautiful kids off to school Friday morning, maybe held their hands at the bus stop, and now will never see them alive again?

This is not supposed to happen, here, in civilized Connecticut, with its strict gun laws, good schools and churches on the village green.

And yet children were being led out of school and told to close their eyes. It's hard not to think that it's the adults who have been closing their eyes.

The Next Days

According to police, a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, before apparently taking his own life Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in one of the worst school shooting massacres in U.S. history. As President Barack Obama said, there isn't a parent in America who doesn't feel overwhelming grief. We think of the dad desperately trying to get information about his 6-year-old in the hospital. The child was the only family he has.

We are in this life, it's been said, to help each other get through it. We do this with ritual and process. In the next days and week, there will be the rituals of wakes and funerals, memorial services and assemblies. They are there for a reason — they help, they are what we have, we must embrace them. There are few occasions as emotionally painful as a child's funeral, and few as necessary.

And then there will be process, starting with the law enforcement and medical investigations, and perhaps leading to changes in public policy. Or — looking at recent mass shootings — talk of change but no actual new laws or policies.

The first response to mass shootings usually has to do with gun control. With the country awash in handguns — 300 million by one estimate — it's not clear if guns can be controlled any longer. The National Rifle Association and other gun lobbyists can take great pride; they've brought gun ownership within reach of every psycho and wing nut with a crazed rage to shoot.

Yet we must try.

Protecting Ourselves

President Obama said Friday that "we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics." OK, let's start by reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons that Congress so cravenly allowed to expire several years ago.

Hunters don't want or need assault rifles with military magazines; these have no civilian application. Yet it is a tribute to the power of the gun lobby and the sniveling cowardice of Congress that there have been more than 60 multiple shootings since a member of Congress, Rep. Gabby Giffords, was shot in Arizona in 2011 and no action has been taken.

Given the unfortunate availability of guns, it behooves us to examine other areas. In the two mass shootings in Greater Hartford in the past 15 years, at lottery headquarters in Newington in 1998 and a beer distributorship in Manchester in 2010, the perpetrators were disgruntled employees. There is work to do both with workplace security and with mental health assistance for workers who need it. That is true of society at large.

The government has failed to protect us from shooters, but we have also failed to protect ourselves, but getting help for friends or family members who need it. We need to think about social outcasts, about drug abuse, about violent video games and films, about what the Internet is being used for.

But that comes after the ritual, the tears, the incomprehensible sorrow. Kids huddled in one classroom said all they wanted was Christmas. It was not an unreasonable request.

May 18, 1927: Andrew Kehoe, school board treasurer in Bath Township, Michigan, bombed three schools, killing 38 children, two teachers and four other adults, as well as himself, because he was enraged by higher taxes to fund a new school.

August 1, 1966: Charles Joseph Whitman, a student at the University of Texas and a former Marine, killed 13 people, as he took over an observation tower on the campus, before a police officer shot and killed him.

April 20, 1999: Students Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school's library.

April 16, 2007: Student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg, Va., before committing suicide.
Other School Shootings In The U.S. Since 1995

Oct. 1, 1997: Luke Woodham, 16, killed 2 students and injured seven others at Pearl High School in Pearl, Miss. He was also convicted of killing his mother hours before the school shooting.

Dec, 1, 1997: Michael Carneal, 14, opened fire on a group of praying students at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, killing three and injuring five.

March 24, 1998: Middle school students Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden pulled a fire alarm at their school in a small rural Arkansas community and then opened fire on students and teachers using an arsenal they had stashed in the nearby woods. Four students and a teacher who tried shield the children were killed and 10 others were injured.

May 21, 1998: Kip Kinkel, 15, killed two and wounded 25 others in a rampage in the cafeteria of Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore. His parents were found slain at their home.

May 26, 2000: Nathaniel Brazill, 13, shot and killed a teacher at Lake Worth Community Middle School in Lake Worth, Fla.

March 5, 2001: Charles Andrew Williams, 15, shot and killed two students and woulded 13 others at Santana High School in Santee, Calif.

April 14, 2003: Four gunmen opened fire in the gymnasium of John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, killing one and wounding three others.

March 21, 2005: Jeff Weise, 15, shot and killed seven people, five students, a teacher, and a security guard, before killing himself at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minn. Weise had shot and killed his grandfather and a woman at his home before driving to school.

September 29, 2006: Eric Hainstock, 15, upset over a reprimand given by principal John Klang of Weston School in Cazenovia, Wisconsin, shot and killed the principal.

October 2, 2006: Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old truck driver, shot 10 girls, killing five before turning the gun on himself in a rampage at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa.
Feb. 14, 2008: Steven Kazmierczak, dressed all in black, stepped on stage in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and opened fire on a geology class. Five students were killed and 16 wounded before Kazmierczak killed himself.

February 27, 2012: T.J. Lane, 17, killed three students and wounded two others during a shooting rampage at Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio.


Anonymous said...

I read all of this, Dr. Day, and was shocked. How many of our students are capable of this? More importantly, what is the policy for dealing with students who bring weapons to school. At Morton Middle School in Lexington, a student brought a switchblade. What is his status? Confidentiality laws protect the student in questions. Will he be allowed to come back and possibly hurt innocent students? A disturbing thought....

I don't think any school in Fayette has a decent plan for school violence or a decent plan for dealing with troubled students.

Anonymous said...

Seems like everyone wants to point fingers after the fact when these events occur and blame others for not identifying possible behaviors which might have predicted the violence.

It is tragic but this sort of violence happens everyday in our country. Not in schools, businesses or public venues but in citizens' very own homes. If family members who are closest to those violent offenders can't do something to predict and stop family members and friends from comitting assaults and homicides in their very own home, how are educators who oversee hundreds of students a day suppose to be able to predict these types of violent attacks?

Fact is we can't predict these behaviors. Equally, we can't expect a school full of children and unarmed adults to be safe when all that seperates them from a gunman is a glass door and a buzzer. Heck, most schools don't even resources officers. In the end we are going to see that hiding kids massed together in closets or small enclosed areas create high mortality killing zones for shooters. We can have all kinds of policies and drills, but the bottom line is all you can do is try to do things to use up the shooter's time and limit his targets until authorities with guns can arrive to neutralize him.

Guns aren't going to go away in our society and there isn't enough money to educate our kids properly much less develop heavy duty security systems which would protect from the multiple external and internal threats which could occur.

The President can say that our country has to change but I am not sure how he can do much to that end.

Yes it is tragic and certainly no one wants to accept this as reality of our exitance, but I simply don't know how we counter this type of behavior in our schools, business and pubic venues.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a number of the examples are non-student shooters who don't really have a connection with the school, maybe like the Newtown shooter.

Seems like these shooters don't respond out of some situational stress but are rather calculated in their planning. Don't seem inclined to tell people they are going to commit the attack.

On average we have over 500 people killed on the job due to work place violence. It is not just a school targeting issue.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher. I teach in Fayette County. I don't think Dr. Shelton and Board of Education are doing enough to protect our students and teachers. I'm sorry I feel this way. It is really not a good way to feel.

Anonymous said...

We might have to start arming the teachers like Israelies do. As silly as it sounds, I doubt we would have ended up with 20 dead kids if some of the teachers had been trained and armed. Trying to put the gun genie back in the bottle isn't going to happen nor is feeling bad about the event and wishing for a kinder culture isn't going to make crazy folks in more sane. Think about it, have you ever heard of any unstable shooters going into the police station on a shooting rampage.

Look how we responded after 9-11 in terms of airport security. We didn't stop flying jets, legislate away guns, or expect folks to just start being more empathetic about the sanctity of life. We knew we could not control or predict when terroists are going to try to take over a plane. We increased security, fielded many more air marshals and allowed pilots to arm themselves.

I hate that it would have to come to that whereby some teachers would have to be armed but what are the other practical alternatives?

Anonymous said...

Have to be careful when events like this result in reactive responses. Ok to review proceedures but this attack in CT doesn't really present us with any conditions which weren't already in existance prior to last week. If you are making changes now, they are ones you probably should have had in place much earlier.

For example, I am not sure if response by Nicholas County Elementary this week which precludes parent entry into the building under any circumstance really addresses what needs to be done. Best practice says parent involvement is critical and that the school needs to be a welcoming environment. It doesn't build a lot of trust or transparency when you aren't letting parents into the building that their children are being educated. Just like students academic progress, we should seek parent involvement in the safety of the children, not exculsion. I am thinking if you review data on school violence, it probably doesn't occur with much frequency when parents make planned visits to pickup/drop off kids or attend birthday parties/school assemblies. If someone wants to come into the building to do some harm, they will break the glass on the front door of Nicholas County Elementary the same as CT shooter did. If you play the numbers game you are much more likely to have supportive and involved parents in the building than potential threats. Equally considering human nature, if you allow those involved parents into the building and a threatening individual does engage in violence, you have got a lot more very motivated adult parents in the building to shelter kids and engage the threat collectively. Parents instinctively swarm to schools when they are alerted to a threat and no doubt would seek anymeans necessary to protect their child if they could. Don't know many parents that wouldn't put themselves in harms way if they thought it might protect their child.

Not saying we shouldn't have secure facility, safety procedures and formal check in/background checks of guests in order to monitor who is in the building but maybe we should consider incorporating parents into the cultural and operational security plan as vested and motivated partners, instead of assuming all adults are a potential threat.

I realize Jon Ackers and the crew at the CFSS might not subscribe to this idea, but just consider the possible difference it might make in supporting teachers, assisting first responders and even engaging a threating individual if your school happened to have a handful of parents in the building to assist your staff during what would be the worst possible conditions or would you rather deal with it on your own like the folks in CT?

Richard Day said...

December 17, 2012 7:21 AM: I’ve seen lots of kids over the years that I worried about. The fact is, you never know who may turn to violence. The great majority of abused or otherwise “troubled” or sick kids go through life without disintegrating to this point. As troubling as it is, privacy laws are a good idea for youth.

December 17, 2012 11:04 AM: I share your concerns. There are no guarantees. But we ought to do what we can to safeguard the peace while we enjoy our personal freedoms.

December 18, 2012 7:18 AM: OK. What would you recommend that the board do?

December 18, 2012 3:09 PM: The solution to speech you don’t like is more speech. But I do not think that holds true for gun possession. Trained and armed teachers? My former faculty was great, but if I were hiring teachers to act as sharpshooters, it would have been a very different faculty – and I’m sure they would not have taught as well.

December 19, 2012 11:05 AM: “Best practice” is a phrase school officials use when they want teachers to do something without debating the merits and demerits of the idea. But that aside, I agree that, with relatively few exceptions, parents are important to the successful education of kids. Incorporating parents into the culture of the school is wise, in my opinion, but into the operational/security plan? What is that - armed parents walking the halls?

Anonymous said...

Dec 18 3:09 I don't think the speech/gun parrallel holds true here. I don't subscribe to the what if game, but...what if just one or two of the teachers at these two schools had been armed? That is not to say they would have even had to shot the guy as it seems that these folks have a tendancy to kill themselves or run away when confronted by authorities.

Texas is already doing this in some districts as are other states considering it. I am not saying that all teachers are packing as like you I can't imagine some of my teachers ever having that ability. In the same token, I do have a few teachers who are veterans and hunters who have experience with firearms. With proper training these few individuals could make a signficicant impact in this type of situation.

Response times for law enforcement in best case scenerios is 3-5 minutes as indicated in past shootings. It is going to take much longer if you are talking about rural situation with limited law enforcement personnel. THink about how many times you can clap your hand everytime you see a child or educator(siumulating a shoter targeting folks) as you walk through the building in five minutes. Now think about many fewer times you could clap or see a child if only given a minute (possible response time by an armed teacher or resource officer already in the building).

Educators have proven their sense of responsiblity in protecting and even engaging a shooter. I am unclear why we are accepting of them being killed in that endeavor when we could give a few some of them a chance to actually defend themselves and more quickly stop the killing instead of sacrificing themselves.

Anonymous said...

December 19, 11:05 Not saying that we arm parents, just use them as a possible supplemental support system. We already have to do criminal background checks and confidentiality training for school volunteers so why not add some training on safety proceedures - Basic things like reporting strangers, assistance with securing doors, proceedures for sheltering students, how to communicate safety concerns, support for educators and students during lockdowns,etc.

There is no guarantee that every parents is going to respond perfectly, but the would serve as more support to what teachers are trying to do instead of standing outside behind the police tape after the fact.