Anti-bullying videos linked to suicides

Anti-bullying videos shown in school have been linked to two recent student suicides, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Brad Lewis’ son Jordan, 15, a sophomore at Carterville High School in Illinois, killed himself Oct. 17 by shooting himself in the chest. He left a note that ended, “Bullying has caused me to do this. Those of you know who you are.”

Lewis criticized investigators for not pursuing the bullies more aggressively, but also turned some of his questions toward his son’s school, which showed an anti-bullying video to students the day before Jordan killed himself.

“All I know is they were discussing the bullying, and showing kids bullying, and at the end of the show they showed pictures of kids that took their lives,” Lewis said. “When a child or a person is at the end of their rope, and they don’t think there’s anywhere to go, and they don’t think anyone’s doing anything about it, and they see something on video, and they relate.”

The video showed suicide as an easy way out, Lewis charged.

A week later in Sparks, Nev., 12-year-old Jose Reyes brought a gun to school, shot two classmates and killed a teacher before killing himself. Jose had been harassed in school, classmates said.

On Oct. 11, the documentary “Bully” reportedly had been shown to all Sparks Middle School students during their sixth-period class. The film, according to students, depicted two stories in which bullying drove one student to commit suicide by hanging and another to bring a gun on a school bus.

A new study suggests that anti-bullying programs may be backfiring.

Did anti-bullying video lead to shooting?

An anti-bullying video that showed a girl bringing a gun to school may have influenced the 12-year-old shooter at Sparks Middle School, reports KRNV-TV in Reno.

Amaya Newton, an eighth grader, said the video was shown on Oct. 11, the last school day before the shootings.

“It was an anti-bullying movie but it could have gotten into his head about the girl scaring the bullies with the gun. She brought a gun on the bus to scare them and threatened to kill them,” Amaya told News 4.

Asked about the video’s message, she said, ”That maybe it’s easier to scare your bullies than just to tell a teacher.”

The shooter was harassed by classmates, Amaya said. “Like tripping him in the hallways, bugging him for money . . . ” He never spoke up.

Teacher dies protecting students

A Marine veteran, Michael Landsberry survived two tours in Afghanistan with the Nevada Air National Guard. The Sparks (Nevada) middle school math teacher died trying to disarm a student yesterday. The 12-year-old shooter also wounded two boys, who are in stable condition, before killing himself.

“Mr. Landsberry’s heroic actions, by stepping toward the shooter, allowed time for other students in the playground area to flee,” said Washoe County School District Police Chief Mike Mieras.

Before opening fire, the boy said, “Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me?,” according to student Michelle Hernandez.

The boy used a Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic handgun that belonged to his parents, police said.

“The relentless, inflexible and unyielding focus on ‘test-taking’ and school rankings and scores” is to blame, writes Debra Feemster, a former Sparks principal, on Diane Ravitch’s blog. “If one teacher, counselor or administrator had had a few extra minutes to look into this student’s eyes and possibly connected with him in a meaningful way, maybe this catastrophe could have been averted.”

“Think of the children whose social and emotional needs are ignored in pursuit of test scores,” Ravitch writes.

Feemster and Ravitch are accusing Sparks Middle School staffers of ignoring students’ “social and emotional needs” and failing to prevent the shooting.

Let’s honor Mr. Landsberry’s courage and decency. Let’s not politicize a tragedy.

Special-needs boy suspended for bomb cartoon

special-needs student was suspended from middle school for drawing a cartoon bomb, reports WTOC-TV.

A photo of the bomb Parham's son drew. (Oct. 14, 2013/FOX Carolina & Amy Parham)A photo of the bomb Parham’s son drew. (Oct. 14, 2013/FOX Carolina & Amy Parham)

Amy Parham said her son, Rhett,  is a fan of the video game Bomber Man. He drew the bomb at home, but took it to school.

“They actually reiterated to me they knew he was non-violent,” said Parham. “They knew he was not actually having a bomb, creating or making a bomb. School officials told her it was a question of  ”perception.”

Rhett will get a hearing to see if his perceived offense is related to his disability. (I think he’s on the autism spectrum, which would mean he’s not good at reading social cues.)

Boys like things that explode, writes Darren on Right on the Left Coast.

When he was young, a local TV show called Miss Pat’s Playroom showed kids’ drawings. He sent one in. Miss Pat said: “And little Darren Miller sent in this picture of an airplane bombing a house.”

No one panicked. No one called for Miss Pat to be thrown off the air. No one called for me to be psychoanalyzed. Back then people were smart enough to realize that boys draw such pictures and it’s perfectly normal, just like playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians.

“Now we’ve taken what is perfectly normal and criminalized it, stigmatized it, and freaked out over it,” he writes. Which is stupid.

Photo not worth 1,000 words

chokehold
A Facebook photo of a principal restraining a girl who’d been fighting resulted in suspensions — for 10 students who “cyber-bullied” the girl.

Principal Todd Whitmire isn’t in trouble, despite a Facebook photo that appears to show him choking a ninth-grade girl. Ashley Johnson, 15, fell as he was pulling her away from a fight, Whitmire told the Contra Costa Times.

Ten students were suspended for “racist and derogatory comments” about the photo, the principal said. ”It was the reposting, the retweeting, and keeping it alive and assigning negative comments to it and creating a hostile environment.”

The fight apparently had been planned on social media, which is why the principal was right there.

Johnson and the boy she was fighting also were suspended. She’s now wearing a neck brace and blaming Whitmire. In an at-home interview, she claimed to be “unable to move,” but a classroom video taken the day before by a school resource officer shows her moving easily, the Times reports.

The school clerk who talked down a gunman

Michael Brandon Hill, 20, walked into the office of an Atlanta elementary school with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition on Tuesday. But no one will remember the tragic deaths at McNair Discovery Learning Center, because there weren’t any. Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk, talked to the mentally ill young man for more than an hour, finally persuading him to surrender. Here’s the tape of her 911 call. This is what courage sounds like.

Hill fired some shots outside the school, but Tuff decided not to make a run for it, notes Josh Voorhees on Slate. The moment “forces you to more fully consider, however briefly, the alternative scenarios that could have played out at the elementary school if she had fled.”

In what may be the most incredible moment in a tape full of them—one that comes after Tuff has convinced Hill to surrender and shortly before the police come in—the school clerk tells Hill that she loves him. “It’s gonna be all right, sweetie,” she says. “I just want you to know that I love you, though, OK? And I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing. You’ve just given up. Don’t worry about it.” It’s only later, after police have Hill in custody, that we hear Tuff’s voice waver. “Let me tell you something, baby,” she tells the dispatcher. “I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life.”

Tuff’s empathy prevented a tragedy, writes Dahlia Lithwick. “In her first interview after the standoff, Tuff mentions that in the initial terrible moments she thought about a sermon series on “anchoring” that her pastor had been preaching, and it helped her to see that Hill was bereaved and in pain, and she was praying for him.”

College treats choking attack as harassment

Caught choking a female student in a women’s restroom at St. Louis Community College in Meramec, a male student was released by campus police a few hours later. Jevon Mallory told a sexual harassment counselor he didn’t know the victim but was trying to “withdraw her from life.” Only when the victim went to the media was Mallory arrested and charged with felony assault.

A mom decides: Gun play is good for boys

When her sons were young, Christine Gross-Loh gave them blocks, puzzles and cooperative games, but no guns. She’s changed her mind about toy guns, she writes in The Atlantic.

When her older son was four, he got a plastic toy gun in a birthday party goodie bag.

My son was utterly riveted. I tried to coax it away from him. “Bang bang!” he shouted, running around with the other kids. Just days later my shy little two year old fixated upon a toy sword that came with a pirate toy someone had given him, and would not go anywhere without it. I could see that the ludicrously small sword made him feel brave.

When the boys were three and five, the family moved to Tokyo, where boys play “all sorts of rough-and-tumble war games.”

Our Japanese public elementary school even gave out water guns to all the kids at a summer festival every year. Every single child got one — even three-year-old siblings. The first time I saw the kids screaming with laughter as they shot at each other over and over in the schoolyard, I was surprised by how the adults could be so blasé. They didn’t just tolerate the play: the teachers and even the principal helped fill the kids’ guns with water and ran around shooting and battling alongside their students. They actually encouraged the children, both boys and girls, to play with toy guns.

Almost no Japanese adults own firearms, Gross-Loh writes. There are very few shooting deaths.

. . . ever since living abroad in a society where young kids are allowed so many outlets for their energy, I have come to believe that one of the secrets of Asian boys’ self-regulation is the way that aggressive play is seen as a normal stage of childhood, rather than demonized and hidden out of sight.

Research doesn’t show that gun play desensitizes kids to violence, Gross-Loh writes. “Play helps children learn how to signal each other: this is fantasy.”

Imaginary play hones self-regulation, which is essential for school success but has declined in recent decades. (Today’s five year olds have the self-regulation skills of a three year old 60 years ago). Research has found that incorporating preschool boys’ interest in weapon play rather than banning it entirely leads them to play longer, more elaborate games that go beyond mere weapon play.

Worried about boys falling behind girls in school, the British education ministry has urged preschool teachers to allow boisterous play, including play with toy weapons, Gross-Loh writes.

Don’t blame schools for violence

“To end the killing” — 141 murders so far this year – a Baltimore Sun editorial called for  ”effective police and prosecutors, ample drug treatment, better schools, and more economic opportunities.”

Don’t blame the schools, responded Dave Miceli, a veteran teacher, in a letter to the editor.

I have taught in the Baltimore public school system for the past two decades. What we need is better students. We have many excellent teachers. I cannot count the number of students who have physically destroyed property in the schools. They have trashed brand new computers, destroyed exit signs, set multiple fires, destroyed many, many lockers, stolen teachers’ school supplies, written their filth on the tops of classroom desks, defecated in bathrooms and stairwells, assaulted teachers (beyond constantly telling them to perform certain impossible acts upon themselves) and refused to do any homework or classwork.

Miceli blames the crime rate on “a total disregard for life” in Baltimore and other cities.

Who’s responsible for a culture of violence? I’d look to parents.

‘Run, hide, fight’ is new safety advice

Hiding in a locked classroom and waiting for rescue may not be the safest strategy when a gunman threatens, advises the U.S. Department of Education. Run, hide, fight is the new safety mantra, reports EdSource Today.

As part of back-to-school preparation, educators throughout California are being trained in the technique, which includes giving teachers the leeway to ignore lockdowns requiring students to be kept inside, to run off campus with students, and to unleash a fire extinguisher on a person with a gun.

“The idea is that instead of being passive and being executed, be active and perhaps save your own life and the lives of others,” said Arthur Cummins, who sits on the board of the California School Resource Officers Association and is an administrator for safe and healthy schools at the Orange County Department of Education.

Los Angeles Unified is training administrators and school principals on alternatives to locking down the campus.

“If you listen to a 911 tape from Columbine, a teacher was doing what she was trained to do, which was to ‘shelter in place,’” said Carl Hall, assistant superintendent of support services for the Kern County Office of Education. “The reality was she had a great opportunity to remove herself and her kids and go out a back door – that’s very sobering.”

Here’s a video aimed at office workers. It’s a lot tougher when adults have to protect children as well as themselves.