Hero teacher disarms shooter

A 12-year-old boy shot two classmates with a shotgun at his New Mexico middle school. A teacher persuaded the shooter to give up his shotgun. John Masterson, an eighth-grade social studies teacher is the hero of Berrendo Middle School in Roswell.
John Masterson

At a vigil this evening at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, Gov. Susana Martinez said, “Mr. Masterson … was a hero …who stood there and allowed a gun to be pointed right at him. and to talk down that young boy to drop the gun so that there would be no more young kids hurt.”

One of the wounded students is in critical condition.

Mason Campbell, a seventh grader, has been identified as the shooter.

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.

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.

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.

‘I am Adam Lanza’s mother’

I spent Friday morning with my little granddaughters at an interactive museum filled with gleeful kiddies. At the same time,  a young man was killing  20 children — first graders, as it turned out — teachers, a counselor and the principal at a Connecticut elementary school.  He’d started by killing his mother.  Why didn’t somebody do something about Adam Lanza? Anarchist Soccer Mom explains what it’s like to love a mentally ill son, who’s often charming and sometimes terrifying. “Michael” is 13.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

Michael’s IQ is “off the charts.” But he had to leave his gifted program because of his bizarre behavior.

Three days before the Newtown massacre, Michael lost computer privileges for refusing to wear the school uniform. He apologized, but then threatened to kill himself if he didn’t get his privileges back. His mother took him to the hospital. Police carried him in, screaming and kicking.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Her son’s social worker said her only option was to get Michael charged with a crime, creating a “paper trail.”

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken health care system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

There are many comments from parents with troubled, potentially violent sons who fear what might happen and don’t know what to do.

It is about mental illness. Can we do better?

Young people who feel isolated, misunderstood, angry and frustrated should reach out for help, writes Tamara Fisher, a gifted education specialist, in To a Bright Kid With Trouble (s). It can get better. “I’ve personally witnessed hundreds of quirky bright kids like you swim out of their soup and shine.”

Colorado teacher tackles gunman

Just doing my job, says David Benke, a math teacher at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, Colorado.  Benke, 57,  tackled a man with a bolt-action rifle who’d wounded two students. The 6-foot-5 teacher tackled the gunman; another teacher, Norm Hanne, helped subdue him. Becky Brown, the assistant principal, grabbed the rifle.

Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood, 32, an unemployed ranch hand, is charged with two counts of attempted murder. He was a former student at the school.

Eastwood has an arrest record in Colorado dating to 1996 for menacing, assault, domestic violence and driving under the influence, and he is believed to have a history of mental issues.

Deer Creek is just down the road from Columbine High, the site of the 1999 massacre.

Update:  Hailed as a hero, Benke is upset he didn’t get the gunmen before he shot an eighth grade boy who the teacher taught last year, reports the Denver Post.  The boy is expected to recover; the wounded girl was well enough to go home.

Sign of the times:

After being subdued, the shooter “said he was going to sue us,” Benke recalled.

Eastwood’s father said his son has been yelling at imaginary people and complaining that eating macaroni and cheese is too noisy.