Sunday, October 10, 2010

A 65 yr old Teacher Stops a Fight Between a Student Couple, Collapses, and Dies


On Friday morning (7:25 am) June 4 in Fitchburg, Mass; a 65-yr-old teacher was found unconscious without a pulse. The school nurse attempted to revive him but he was later pronounced dead at the local hospital. His collapse occurred after breaking up a fight between a boyfriend and a girlfriend in the hallway of Fitchburg HS. There was no indication that he was injured or struck while intervening in the student fight.

Commentary: While the exact cause of this teacher's death are unknown this incident raises some issues for consideration.
  • Teachers health and welfare are important especially stress management. Teaching can be a stressful profession and establishing activities which can help one manage stress is important.
  • Following a school incident, school leaders and everyone must be hyper-vigilant for a sceondary response to the first incident.
    • School members may be in poor health.
    • Anxiety or asthma attacks
    • A student with defacto PTSD from violent family experiences from the country he immigrated
  • Teachers need to consider what they will and should do when violence occurs in the school environment. The goal is to maintain safety at all times, but how does one do that:
    • Girls can be just as violent as boys when they fight, sometimes can be more unpredictable.
    • Prevention requires continual vigilance and strict policies as consequences for fighting. 
  • What is the protocol in your school if someone is seriously injured or unconscious. Remember, It always starts with activating 911 by phone, not a call to the main office or the school nurse.
  • Are there AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) at your school? How many? Where are they located? Who is trained to use them?
    • If not how do you obtain funding to get them....?

Gunman Fires Weapon at California Elementary School, Two Injured


At approximately 12:15 local time during a school lunch break, Brendan O'Rourke, 41, dressed in dark clothing parked his car jumped a fence and walked onto Kelly Elementary School (Carlsbad, CA) campus carrying a .357 Magnum and a small gas can. He opened fire with five shots into a crowd of children on a playground at a Carlsbad elementary school Friday, leaving two female students (ages 6 & 7) with minor gunshot (grazed by the bullets) injuries. Teachers and students escaped into the nearby classrooms from outside including the two injured female students. They were transported via Mercy Air to a local hospital for treatment.  

The assailant "sprayed" gunfire before apparently running out of ammunition and trying to flee. A nearby construction worker drove his vehicle and knocked the gunmen down as other nearby adults grabbed him. He was attempting to reload before he was stopped. There was a propane gas tank found in the gunman's car. At present it is not believed that the gunmen is associated with anyone at the school, making the school's selection as a random act of violence. The combination of the gas can the gunman carried coupled with the propane tank lead one to believe he had even more destructive intentions. (Note: The Columbine School shooting was actually designed as a propane bomb attack gone awry with the attackers planning on shooting the survivors as they tried to escape.)

The school, located approximately 35 miles north of San Diego, was placed on lockdown until further notice as police gathered evidence. Parents of students were asked to meet at Laguna Rivera Park, which is a short distance from the school. Counselors will be at the school Monday to help students, staff and families "handle the anxiety and fear that can result from a traumatic experience."

Points for Consideration:
  • Unfortunately violence at school can occur at anytime whether it is pre-planned or random. 
  • Developing a PREPAREDNESS Mindset is important. Think of school incidents not as IF whether something is going to happens but WHEN something happens .
  • Some questions to ponder:
    • What would you immediately do if you saw a suspicious person at your school or on school grounds? Demonstrating strange behavior (jumping a fence)?
    • What would you immediately do if you saw someone with a gun or a dangerous object ( a gas can)?
    • After an attacker was subdued what immediate actions would you take?
    • Does your school have a student reunification site at a remote location? Does the receiving remote location know they have been chosen as the site? Have you developed a plan and conducted a talk through /walk through between agencies? How will students be transported to that location? How will you maintain accountability during this process and when a parent asks "where is my child?"
  • Following an act of violence, the school (or surrounding area) is a crime scene until processed (hours, days) and cleared by law enforcement. You may not be able to go back into the building. Teacher's and driving student's car keys, purses, cell phones, jackets with wallets, etc. may not be available until the next day. If there was a bomb threat or incident may not be until much later....
  • If damage was done to the facility it needs to be repaired which is part of the recovery process. Who from the school or school district conducts this coordination and with what business? Identify these businesses ahead of time.
  • What children and staff saw what part of the incident? This is critical for determining potential witnesses and for on-scene and post-incident counseling.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How Good Are Your School Bus Drivers...?

Points to Ponder:
  • Who checks the credentials of the school bus drivers that drive your students to school?
  • What type of assessment is done throughout the school year as to their performance?
    • Do parents and school officials have a process for assessing bus driver performance or do you react to an incident and then fix the problem after the fact...? 

A West Haven CT bus driver was charged with driving with a suspended license and due to his poor judgement and substandard driving performance for putting 21 students lives at risk. The bus he was driving got stuck under a bridge in water (due to flooding) under the Washington Ave bridge following a ongoing rainstorm. The students had to stand on the seats as water flowed through the bus. The driver was 70 years old and he disregarded an orange cone warning of the rising flood waters. He drove over the cone and got stuck in the rising water until the bus stalled. The driver was charged with 21 counts of risk of injury to a minor as a result.

Just because school buses are out of sight and out of mind is no reason to assume the school bus drivers are administratively current in their certifications, and operationally sound in the employment of their vehicle.

Rescheduling a Sports Event due to an Incident in the Community

Points to Ponder:
  • Violent acts from our community can sometimes spill over into our schools and school related events.
  • School officials need to maintain situational awareness in the community so they can prevent situations from developing that could result in increased danger to the school community.  
  • Rescheduling events (a game or a lunch period, etc.) can throw off a planned event (fight, food fight, riot) if you have information that some nefarious elements (gang, criminals, expelled former students, etc.) may have planned to cause violence.
    • Individuals and groups (gangs) that participate in routine substance abuse often have unusual sleep cycles due to the daily recovery cycle required to function.
  • Night time is typically the time where larger groups of people can assemble due to school being let out and work over. 
  • Collaboration between decisionmakers and public safety professionals is critical to prevent incidents or mitigate potential problems.

Rescheduled Football Game:
On Sept. 30, 2010, Stamford School Superintendent (Joshua Starr) rescheduled a football game after collaboration with their city's police department due to the shooting deaths of two adult males (a 31 yr old male and a 20 yr old male) from both cities, Norwalk CT and Stamford CT. There was some concern pertaining to the possibility of retaliation from the death of these two men. The two teams playing were Stamford High School and Brien McMahon High School from Norwalk. The game was rescheduled from 6 pm to 3:30 pm.

Rescheduling a school event due to a potential problem or threat sends a message to those considering causing a problem that the school is aware and proactively maintailing control of the safety and security of their school community.  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Middletown CT Middle School Evacuated due to Fire

Points To Consider:
  • Plans are important, but Drills build capability and can save lives.
  • Smoke kills more people than fire.
  • Thinking about a full school evacuation to a fire on a Friday morning is the last thing you would expect.
  • Incidents occur when you least expect them 
  • Did an evacuation relocation plan for student reunification with parents exist?
  • How were student relocated to the reunification site? Walk? Bus?
  • How would have this evacuation and relocation have been different if it was in February?  

What happend: An electrical room fire which generated smoke forced the evacuation and closure of Woodrow Wilson Middle School. Two custodians were sent to the hospital with minor smoke inhalation. The fire started at 8:15 am Friday morning which sent smoke throughout the building.The school staff and around 700 students evacuated the building without incident. The school remained closed for the remainder of the day while officials evaluated damage (smoke damage). The fire was limited to the electrical room and is under investigation.