‘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.

Columbine, 10 years later

April  20 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Columbine murders. Teacher Magazine is hosting a forum for discussion on what we’ve learned — or failed to learn — about school violence.

Psychologists now more widely accept that these high school gunmen suffered from personality disorders and that the media wrongly portrayed the shootings as simple bully retaliation.

Do you think we understand student violence better today than we did a decade ago? Are schools addressing student violence differently since Columbine? How has the Columbine shooting changed teaching? Are you personally worried about student violence? Is enough being done at the local and national level to prevent similar tragedies in the future?

Registration is required to join the discussion, but it’s free.

Coddling young delinquents is costly, writes Caitlin Flanagan in the Wall Street Journal. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were arrested for petty theft before the massacre — and allowed to return to school, she points out.

Today only the most incorrigible young offenders are removed from their guardians’ care and forced to live and study in correctional facilities. Furthermore, to expel a student in most public school districts is an arduous business. An expulsion hearing is required, and parents may choose to appeal the decision, a process that rains down a world of legal woe on whatever teachers and administrators have been involved in the action.

In the attempt to rehabilitate delinquents, we leave their classmates at risk.

Update: Two fifth graders in San Jose were suspended for five days and transferred to another school for a switchblade attack on a classmate.  One boy allegedly paid another to attack the victim, who dodged the knife and ran away. The school didn’t report the incident to the police. A district official told the victim’s mother that if she doesn’t want her son to attend middle school next year with the attackers,  she should transfer him to another school. She plans to leave the district.


School shooters are crazy

The Columbine killers and most other school shooters are severely mentally ill, concludes psychologist Peter Langman in Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters.

Released just before the 10th anniversary of Columbine, the book is all too timely as Germans try to figure out why 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer murdered 15 people, including nine students and three teachers at his former school, before killing himself.  An unsuccessful student from an affluent family, Kretschmer had been treated at a psychiatric clinic for depression. Allegedly, the teen bragged about his plans on a chat room the night before the attack:

“I’m sick of this shitty life, always the same — everyone laughing at me, nobody sees my potential,” it said. “I’m serious Bernd — I got guns here, and I’m gonna head over to my old school tomorrow and have myself a good ole barbecue.”

Langman describes Columbine killer Eric Harris, 18, as a rage-filled, egotistical, conscience-less psychopath.  After reading the journals of Dylan Klebold, 17, Langman diagnoses him as “psychotic, suffering from paranoia, delusions and disorganized thinking.”

. . . Like Klebold, four other psychotic shooters profiled by Langman “were suicidally depressed and full of rage at the inexplicable unfairness of life,” writes the 49-year-old psychologist. “In addition, they were not living in reality. They all believed that people or monsters conspired to do them harm … They were confused and desperate and lost in the mazes of their minds.”

The most prevalent misconception about school shootings, Langman contends, is that they are perpetrated by loners or outcasts striking out against classmates who bullied them. In reality, most shooters were teased no more or no less than their peers, most had friends, and most of the victims were targeted at random.

How do you tell the kid who’s dangerous from the kid who’s just fantasizing? Look for “attack-related behavior,” says Langman. But it may be seen only in hindsight.