Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Terrorists & Terrorism: Not near my School....Not in my Town...

In the area of School Preparedness, I am a firm believer in PREPAREDNESS, NOT PARANOIA so I try to present a balanced approach to ALL HAZARDS (Natural or Man-Made; Safety & Security). There is a tendency to focus on safety and security as it relates to school community related man-made threats. Any link to terrorists or terrorism is still a foreign (no pun intended) concept to most Americans as we perceive it as something that happens elsewhere or to someone else.

From 2006 to 2009, this self proclaimed "Muslim Soldier" who confessed to the May 1, 2010 Time Square Car Bomb attempt worked 5 minutes from the school I work at at a distance of less than 2 miles...?

I make this point not for the sensational value or inferring that any school was a target of this terrorist, while it wasn't PROBABLE, it was POSSIBLE. Not trying to reverse-engineer the probable logic path of a terrorist attack at a school in the US, but is it POSSIBLE. Schools are generally considered softer targets and are not overtly,or always designed, with security measures in mind. (Some schools still actually debate keeping their front door locked during the school day...?)

When the 30 year old recently naturalized Pakistani-American FAISAL SHAHZAD was arrested for and confessed to being the Times Square Car Bomber all of America wanted to know:
WHO was he? A 30 year old recently naturalized (from Pakistan) citizen living in Shelton, Connecticut who was a college graduate, husband, father, home-owner; who fell on hard financial times.
Was he alone or part of a larger group? Where did he come from? He traveled to Pakistan his country of origin and received bomb-making classes from the Islamic Extremist Network (Al Qaeda / Taliban associates).
How did he plan, prepare, and execute this attempted attack? He attended bomb training in Pakistan twice. He selected the time, location, and method to create maximum casualties at a symbolic location (NYC). He illegally purchased a car which he used for the car bombing attempt. He received cash drop offs for funding twice from a supporter, once in Massachusetts and once on Long, Island NY. He had an weapon with him for self defense.
Why did he commit this terrorist act? Supporting Islamic extremist views of "self-defense" against the US forces in Muslim countries in the Middle East. His claims of revenge for the US indiscriminate killing of Muslims, and US forces in Muslim lands...etc.
Why did he complete this terrorist act? The bomb failed to detonate and the car bomb left suspiciously parked was discovered by an alert street vendor who notified NYPD who evacuated the area. He was arrested 53 hours later boarding a US flight to the United Arab Emirates as he attempted to escape.

While not something anyone of us likes to consider, but their are mentally unbalanced individuals, criminals, extremists, and terrorists sometimes functioning (living, working) as close as five minutes away from your school community -you cannot rule out or wish away the possibility, despite its probability.   

Student Safety: In and Out of School (HS Junior Killed by falling off a Car)

During the last week of June, a high school junior facing his upcoming senior year in the September at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, CT. He died due to head injuries he sustained when he fell off of or out of a moving car. The accident occurred on a Monday night at 10:22 pm. He was riding on top of a Honda Civic and he fell off when it drove forward. The car contained his twin brother who was also 17 and a friend who is 18 yrs old. It is uncertain if he was on the roof or the trunk, and their is a pending CT State Police (CSP) investigation. The CSP will determine the circumstances and it any charges will be filed. A great young man who liked to play golf, hang out with friends; he is no longer with us.

Points for Consideration:
  • Summer Safety Brief for All Students. Schools typically have a pre-graduation safety brief prior to prom season and graduation. This needs to continue, but why not expand that to all of the student population tailored to summer student safety as well?
    • Vehicle Safety, Water Safety, Boating, Fireworks Safety, Social Networking & Cyber -Bullying Safety, Firearms Safety, Crime Prevention & Personal Safety , just to name a few...
  • Graduating Seniors and Adulthood Responsibilities. The 18 year old driver or occupant of the car can be held liable for his actions or inactions as an adult as opposed to the 17 yr old...? Adult responsibilities are often not considered by 18 yr old students or graduates.
  • Every school is trying to develop lifelong learners as we prepare them academically and socially to enter adulthood and become the future leaders of our communities. 
  • Students who drive need to understand some of the science and physics behind driving. I think it would have a great effect for a high school physics teacher to discuss the physics behind a car crash and the effects upon a human body (seat-belted and not) or a scenario where a student was trying to hold onto a car while it was driving and it stops or accelerates. Or have a local police department conduct a crime scene investigation and how it is done. (I attended a community citizen's police academy and the accident investigation class was enlightening to say the least.) Many drivers are not aware of the tremendous force a vehicle can generate.  

Preparedness isn't just for school, and it is not "done to" the students. They have an active present and future role and responsibility is being prepared to recognize all hazards throughout their lives. School's need to instill preparedness throughout the school community whether school is in session or not. This nests with the local community's preparedness efforts and builds a network of informed and prepared citizens.