Students invent classroom door lock

“Shaken by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and determined to prevent future tragedies, a team of high school students in Washington, D.C., has invented a new locking device for classroom doors,” reports Discovery News. Often classroom doors can’t be locked from the inside due to fire-safety regulations. They hope their low-cost device will help teachers keep intruders out.

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Ten Benjamin Banneker Academic High School students, led by math teacher John Mahoney, created the Dead Stop. A PVC pipe that’s hinged on one side can be locked on the other with a steel pin. Fitted over a hydraulic door closer, it will prevent the door hinge from widening.

 When the students did research about patents and commercially available door locks, they said most of the devices they found required physical installation either on the door or the jamb. Other devices were expensive and complicated to install. Theirs should cost less than $5 and be simple enough that a teacher could lock the door in under 30 seconds, they said. Once the danger has passed it should be easy to remove as well.

With a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant, the students plan to build and test several prototypes of their design, publicize the DIY instructions and collaborate with a company to manufacture the device. They’re hoping for pro bono help in applying for a patent.

Calgary school: ‘We don’t condone heroics’

Seventh-grader Briar MacLean pushed a knife-wielding bully away from his victim — and was reprimanded for “playing the hero,” reports the National Post (Canada).  The Calgary, Alberta school “does not condone heroics,” the principal told MacLean’s mother.

Briar, 13, saw the bully poke and prod his victim, then put him in a headlock. He heard a flick and heard classmates “say there was a knife.” Briar shoved the bully into a wall, stopping the fight.

The teacher, who was at the other end of the room, noticed and called the principal. The boy with the knife was suspended. Several periods later, Briar was called to the office and kept there for the rest of the day. The police searched his locker. The vice-principal called Briar’s mother, Leah O’Donnell, to say he’d done the wrong thing by not waiting for the teacher.

“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”

O’Donnell says “she understands the school’s desire to keep students from getting hurt, but fears it is teaching the wrong lesson,” reports the Post. Students should learn to stand up to bullies and help each other, she believes.

Running away, tattling usually just make things worse. . . . Most of the time bullies back down when confronted, she added.

“What are we going to do if there are no heroes in the world? There would be no police, no fire, no armed forces. If a guy gets mugged on the street, everyone is going to run away and be scared or cower in the corner. It’s not right.”

“What are we teaching these children?” asked Briar’s mother in a letter to the Calgary Sun “When did we decide as a society to allow our children to grow up without spines? Without a decent sense of the difference between right and wrong?”

Update: An 11-year-old Maryland boy on a school bus said, “I wish I had a gun to protect everyone at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was suspended for 10 days. His son “wanted to be the hero,” said Bruce Henkelman.

The boy was questioned by the principal and a sheriff’s deputy, who wanted to search the family home for firearms, Henkelman said. He refused. The suspension later was reduced to one day.

Teacher’s got a gun

Arming educators is a reality in some places and under serious consideration in others, reports Education Week.

 In Utah, school employees have been able to carry concealed weapons onto campus for about a decade—without telling a soul—and at least four Texas school districts are known to have granted select employees permission to take concealed weapons to school.

A rural Texas district, Southland is 15 miles from the nearest law-enforcement agencies, says Superintendent Toby Miller. Deciding “we are the first responders,”  Southland is training some of its employees to carry guns.

The armed employees, a small subset of the district’s 32-member staff, went through mental-health screenings and trained for their concealed-weapons licenses together. The training will be ongoing, he said, as long as Southland employees carry weapons. And the guns fire so-called frangible ammunition, which breaks into small pieces on contact, preventing ricochet.

Armed staffers must carry their weapon at all times in a concealed holster: Guns cannot be carried in a purse or locked in a desk.

Michael S. Dorn, who runs the nonprofit Safe Havens International, worries about a new attitude among school employees since the Newtown shootings: “Now, I’m supposed to die” to defend students.

Dorn, a former school police chief, thinks too many teachers and administrators have switched to attack mode. “We’re seeing so many [school employees] saying they would attack” someone, he said, “whether it’s two parents coming into the office arguing over a custody issue or people pulling a handgun but not actually shooting anybody.”

A few weeks ago, a school principal told me she’s been thinking about whether she’d give her life to protect her students from a gunman as the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary did. Another woman said. “I’d want a gun.”

Other schools are taking a different tack: Marietta, Georgia public schools are installing “panic buttons” that call 911.  At an Alabama school, teachers and staff wear panic buttons around their necks that trigger a school lockdown.

Study: TV can teach empathy to preschoolers

When 3- to 5-year-olds watch less violence on TV and more shows featuring cooperation and friendship, they’re less aggressive toward other children, concludes a study published in Pediatrics.

One group of parents received guides highlighting positive TV shows for children and newsletters encouraging them to watch with their kids and discuss  the best ways to deal with conflict. Researchers called monthly to help parents set television-watching goals for their preschoolers.

The control group got dietary advice, but no guidance on TV watching.

After six months, parents in the group receiving advice about television-watching said their children were somewhat less aggressive with others, compared with those in the control group. The children who watched less violent shows also scored higher on measures of social competence, a difference that persisted after one year.

Low-income boys showed the most improvement.

“It’s not just about turning off the TV; it’s about changing the channel,” said Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, the lead author of the study and a University of Washington pediatrics professor.

Preschoolers average 4.1 hours of television and other screen time daily, according to a 2011 study.

“Law enforcement sources” believe Adam Lanza was motivated to kill Newtown’s children by “violent video games“and his desire to outkill Andres Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, reports CBS.  “Call of Duty” was his favorite.

Armed guard disarms school shooter

An Atlanta middle-school student shot a classmate yesterday in the school courtyard. An armed security guard — an off-duty police officer — took the gun away. The 14-year-old victim has been discharged from the hospital.

Ida Price MIddle School students must walk through a metal detector to enter the school. It’s not clear how the shooter got the gun into the school.

An armed police officer and an unarmed guard will be stationed at every elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, if the school board can persuade the local police to provide the manpower.

After the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, some parents who attended the school board meeting asked for  two armed guards at each school. ”The only thing that stopped that guy that day was when the two Newtown police burst in the building,” said parent Donna Lorenz.

Safe or stupid?

Since the horror of the Sandy Hook shootings, Americans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome, writes Lenore Skenazy on CNN.

Folks in the throes of PTSS are so traumatized by a tragic event that they immediately demand something – ANYTHING – be done to prevent it from ever occurring again. Even if the chances of it happening are one in a million. Even if the “preventative measures” proposed are wacky, wasteful, ridiculous – or worse.

One of her readers at Free-Range Kids reported that the local school created a new rule for its first-grade Christmas concert:  Parents had to hand in their car keys to the office before entering the auditorium.

Because guns don’t kill people … people with car keys kill people?

Another reader said a day care center has asked parents to slam the door on other parents entering behind them, so that everyone has to enter the security code.

Expect a fellow parent to hold the door open for you just because you’re standing there with a baby in one arm and a briefcase in the other? No way! This is a safe community, and a safe community treats all people, even the ones cradling their own children, as potential psycho-killers!

It’s the mindset that created the TSA. Treat everyone like a homicidal maniac. And never ever use your common sense.

A jogger running by a Kentucky school triggered a lockdown. “Seriously…six or seven different police and fire departments, including ambulances, EMS teams, and K9 units were called out, surrounding neighborhoods were searched, the school was put on lockdown, and everyone just shrugs it off as an unplanned practice drill?”

Obama urges school safety, mental health grants

In addition to various gun control measures, President Obama wants to fund school safety and mental health initiatives in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, reports Ed Week.

A new, $150 million Comprehensive School Safety Program would fund 1,000 additional school resource officers (guards), psychologists, social workers and counselors.  Another $30 million would help school districts develop emergency plans.

Obama wants $50 million to help 8,000 schools “put in place new strategies to improve school climate and discipline, such as consistent rules and rewards for good behavior,” reports Ed Week.

The mental health package would improve young people’s access to mental health services. Also:

 $15 million to help teachers and other adults who work with youth provide “Mental Health First Aid,” enabling them to identify students with mental health problems early and steer them toward treatment;

$40 million to help districts work with law enforcement and other local agencies to coordinate services for students who demonstrate need;

$25 million to finance new, state-based strategies to identify individuals ages 16 to 25 with mental health and substance abuse issues and get them the care they need.

$25 million to help schools offer mental health services aimed at combating trauma, anxiety, and bolstering conflict resolution; and,

$50 million in new money to train social workers, counselors, psychologists and other mental health professionals.

Before Newtown, Obama proposed eliminating grants designated for school counselors and nearly $300 million aimed at school safety, notes Ed Week. Now the administration is back to creating little pots of federal money for specific uses.

My daughter interned with the California Education Department’s office on preventing school violence two years after the Columbine massacre. She created a web site showing grants districts could seek to fund various anti-violence programs. When that was done, she was asked to help districts evaluate the various programs by posting links to research on their effectiveness. There was no such research. Perhaps we’re wiser now on what works for troubled kids.

Obama’s proposals — “well-intentioned and largely symbolic” — could undermine instruction by wasting time, energy and money preparing for a exceptionally unlikely event, writes Rick Hess.

The president’s proposed “mental health first aid” training grant works out to $150 per school.

. . . it’s likely educators will get a few hours of desultory training, which will be just enough to waste their time without making a difference. Or, if they actually get the training and support they need to do this well (with the $150 per school!), it’ll distract from training in their core work of preparing instruction, crafting assessments, monitoring student learning, and so forth.

An array of federal grants create “extra paperwork, meetings, and opportunities for small-dollar consultants,” writes Hess.

California teacher ‘talks down’ shooter

Thanks to a heroic teacher who “talked down” a 16-year-old with a shotgun, nobody was killed at a rural California high school yesterday.  One Taft High School student was critically wounded, but is now in stable condition. Wounded in the forehead by a shotgun pellet, science teacher Ryan Heber talked to the shooter, letting 28 students flee the room. With help from a campus supervisor, Kim Lee Fields, who’d heard the shots fired, he got the boy to surrender to police. RyanHeber_1357858333303.jpg

About half of California’s high schools, 16 percent of its middle schools, and 5 percent of its elementary schools have police or resource officers on campus, and 83 percent of the officers at high schools are armed, according  an EdSource survey, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Taft High’s armed resource officer wasn’t at school because he was snowed in. However, police reportedly were at the school within 60 seconds of a 911 call from a neighbor, who saw the boy enter a side door with the shotgun.

The Kern County Sheriff’s office is investigating reports the suspect threatened students last year, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Angela Hayden, whose 16-year-old daughter attends Taft, said the suspected shooter allegedly threatened to kill her daughter and other students last year while they were on a school bus during a field trip to Universal Studios.

“He was telling everyone that he had a list of people who messed with him over the years and that he was going to kill them,” Hayden told The Times.  She said the boy allegedly said his brother would be the first victim.

Hayden said her daughter complained about the incident to a vice principal and that the boy was expelled for several days. After the boy returned, Hayden said, she called the principal wanting to know why he was not permanently barred from campus. The principal declined to discuss the punishment, citing privacy concerns, according to Hayden.

“Everybody knew about this kid,” Hayden said.

The shooter used his older brother’s shotgun, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. He had extra ammunition in his pocket.

In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the White House is now considering federal funding for schools that want to hire police officers and increase surveillance, California Sen. Barbara Boxer told NBC. The NRA, derided for proposing armed guards at schools, isn’t going to go along if it’s part of a bill also calling for a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.

Student suspended for Sandy Hook poem

A San Francisco high school senior was suspended — and could be expelled — for writing a poem about the Sandy Hook massacre. “I know why he pulled the trigger,” wrote Courtni Webb, 17, in a notebook. She thinks gunman Adam Lanza felt isolated and unloved.

Webb goes to the Life Learning Academy, a small charter school for “troubled” students, including those with arrest records. It has a “zero tolerance” policy against violence, which school administrators say the poem violated. A letter to Courtni’s mother said the poem “contained deeply concerning, and threatening language.”

Here’s part of the poem:

They wanna hold me back
I run but still they still attack
My innocence, I won’t get back
I used to smile
They took my kindness for weakness
The silence the world will never get
I understand the killing in Conecticut
I know why he pulled the trigger
The government is a shame
Society never wants to take the blame
Society puts these thoughts in our head
Misery loves company
If I can’t be loved no one can

Writing about violence isn’t the same as wanting to commit violence, says Courtni.

The poem doesn’t read like a threat to me.

 

Lawyer withdraws Newtown suit — for now

That $100 million lawsuit claiming Connecticut failed to protect Sandy Hook Elementary students has been withdrawn, but could be refiled.

“I received new evidence on security at the school, which I need to evaluate,” (lawyer Irving) Pinsky said Monday.

The suit was filed in the name of “Jill Doe,” a six-year-old girl who survived the massacre but allegedly was traumatized by hearing screams, cursing and gunshots on the intercom. Pinsky said the suit’s goal was to improve school safety, not to make money. Of course.