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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Terrible Anniversary on Valentine's Day

Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of the 17 murders and 15 injuries at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Students who survived and have spoken out have been called "crisis actors."  It is hard to believe in a country built on democratic speech that anyone would attack children speaking out after what is likely the worst day of their lives in a place where they should feel the safest.

From Rolling Stone:
It was the sixth of 24 shootings in U.S. schools last year, but the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, became the catalyst for a nationwide movement. The school’s students rallied more than half a million people to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives and galvanized support for some 67 new gun laws.
The Education Writers Association has a good story on what that school may have missed and what districts should be considering going forward.
That an expelled student with a lengthy school discipline record, a history of violent outbursts, disturbing social media posts, and run-ins with police was able to buy an assault weapon, walk into his former school, and kill 17 students and educators has been called a “multi-system failure.”
How do schools identify and support students who show signs of potential violence? 

What training do staff receive to identify and report potentially dangerous behavior?
Is there a designated threat response team in the district? If so, who is on the team? What training do they receive? 
 And, are districts making changes to their school safety and threat assessment systems in the wake of the school shooting?
I would certainly say that schools need more counselors so there are more eyes on more kids. There is a bill in the WA state legislature to provide funding.
It’s important to distinguish between systems in place for responding to immediate threats of violence versus systems for preventing situations from escalating to the point of violence in the first place.
The latter systems may include things like comprehensive behavioral and mental health services writes Evie Blad for Education Week:
While it can be tempting to focus on costly visible measures, like adding more school police and installing metal detectors, some schools may achieve greater safety benefits in hiring an additional school counselors or launching new programs to support students with behavioral needs, school leaders say.
Perhaps "See something, Say something" might be a good mantra to give to students to use if they see students who have a pattern of self-hating language or violent language towards others.
What avenues do students, parents, and educators have to report concerns? For example, some school districts have created hotlines that students can email or call to report concerns.
What about discipline?
How do schools distinguish between minor infractions and serious, credible threats?  Are threat response policies applied evenhandedly, or, like zero-tolerance approaches to discipline, do they tend to disproportionately affect students of color?
But like many problems that come to the schoolhouse door, there are societal issues that schools and districts alone cannot solve.

They can't solve students access to guns.  (Although in the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting case, the father of the killer did get prosecuted and sent to jail for having guns - he was a felon - not so much for them laying around and being accessible.)  From USA Today in 2016:
A jury in September convicted the elder Fryberg of six counts of illegally possessing firearms. After he serves his sentence, Fryberg will have three years of supervised release.

Prosecutors say Fryberg should not have purchased guns because it violated a court protection order. But a record of the order never made it into criminal databases used by firearms dealers during gun purchases.
Also, this from the AP:
Sheriffs in a dozen Washington counties say they won’t enforce the state’s sweeping new restrictions on semi-automatic rifles until the courts decide whether they are constitutional.

A statewide initiative approved by voters in November raised the minimum age for buying semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, required buyers to first pass a firearms safety course and added expanded background checks and gun storage requirements, among other things. It was among the most comprehensive of a string of state-level gun-control measures enacted in the U.S. after last year’s shooting at a Florida high school.
Initiative supporters say they are disappointed but noted the sheriffs have no role in enforcing the new restrictions until July 1, when the expanded background checks take effect. The provision brings vetting for semi-automatic rifle and other gun purchases in line with the process for buying pistols.
I have to shake my head because some of these sheriffs are saying they have to protect the constitution except that the constitution allows for laws regulating rights. Plus, their job is NOT to interpret law but to enforce it.  Leave it to the courts and enforce it until a court says it is unconstitutional.  That's generally how it works.

I'll ask the district what, if anything, has changed in their security policies from a year ago. 

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