Thursday, February 18, 2010

Precautions when Presenting Bad News vice Reacting to threatening situations

Below is a situation where a teacher was required to make a Mandated Report to Child Protective Services (CPS) in which the teacher and the administration did not think through or "wargame" any of the negative consequences such as parental threats or a violent reaction. 

Mandated Reporting from Caroline, Special Education Teacher: Newark, New Jersey

"For valid reasons, I reported one of my students" families to Child Protective Services (CPS), The family was known to lie, prone to violence and was known to have guns and knives at home. After the child was removed, the family burst into my school building yelling "Where's Caroline? We're gonna kill her!" My principal dialed 911 and all was okay. What I would do differently is make sure that the prinicipal and the superintendent and all relevant personnel were aware of the situation before hand that safety precautions were in place."

Final Comment: It is important to plan for and prepare for how people (students, parents, employees, staff, spectators, etc. ) may react to receiving bad news. In the ideal world, we all hope for the best in people, but real world we live in requires practical measures we must take to ensure the school environment remains a safe and controlled environment.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2 Incidents in February of Teachers Shooting Administrators

Comment Up Front: Hindsight is always 20/20. The hiring and screening process for ALL personnel is extremely important. Having a process to handle allegations against employees is also important to balance protecting the rights of employees versus the safety of your school community. An additional factor associated with workplace violence is how people (teachers, staff, parents, students, spectators, etc) handle bad news and may lose control (immediately, at the next meeting, or after school or an event). 
  • Often people feel embarrassed or akward about admitting that a person(s) or a situation scares, intimidates, or makes them feel uncomfortable so they ignore or deny that. Telling a colleague or a supervisor that "someone" makes you nervous, scared, or uncomfortable is a PRUDENT thing to do be it as a precaution or specific protocol. Requesting another person be in the room during the face-to-face transmission of bad knews and alerting a supervisor, and a school resource officer (SRO) or security personnel. The bad news can be someone  being fired, student suspended, let go due to budget cuts, or not allowed into a sporting event. 

Shooting at Tenn Elementary School: On February 10 in Knoxville Tennessee, a disgruntled 4th grade male teacher (Mark Foster, age 48, single) shot his Principal (Elisa Luna) and Assistant Principal (Amy Brace) in school approximately one hour after the students were released because of snow. Mark Foster was arrested a short distance from the school at a roadblock where he still had his gun and five expended casings (shells). It appears the wounded teachers will survive. The apparent motive was his teaching contract was not going to be renewed for the following year coupled with allegations of past mental instability.
  • Post shooting hindsight: Information gathered after the shooting have highlighted that Anthony Foster (the shooter's brother) had a protection order against his brother. Also, Anthony Foster had sent a number of anonymous emails to the school superintendent and principal discussing the teacher's instability and past mental issues.

Shooting at Univ of Alabama: On Feb 13 in Huntsville, Alabama, a female Harvard educated neurobiology professor (Amy Bishop Anderson, age 42, mother) shot six people killing three people (chairperson and two fellow faculty members) and wounded three others faculty members. the shooting took place at a biology department meeting in a room full of colleagues. She had recently been denied tenure which appears to be the motive coupled with emerging instability and past incidents of violence.

  • Post shooting hindsight: At the age of 19, she was charged with "accidentally" killing her brother with a shotgun in their home following an argument. The police record for this shooting were "lost". Her mother was on the police personnel board during that time period generating suspicions her records were lost. The police didn't question her for 11 days since she was hysterical and she was released by order of the then police chief. According to her husband she was also a suspect in a 1993 bombing investigation at Harvard but was cleared of charges.  

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Standardized Approaches to Incidents at your School

Bottom Line Up Front: You need to understand NIMS, All Hazard Approach, ICP, and EM Cycle to have a prepared School community!!!!

Background: Following the attacks of Sept 11, 2001 our nation reconfigured how it organized, planned, prepared, and responded to incidents whether they be man-made or natural occurences. There has been significant reorganization and revisiting stategy, education, training, operations, and most importantly establishing a preparedness mindset in everyone. The changes started at the federal level (DHS: Dept of Homeland Security) and then trickled down to the state level (State Public Safety / Emergency Management /Homeland Security), and eventually the local level (City Emergency Managers). The DHS developed the National Incident Management System (NIMS: listed on the FEMA link above) . We will discuss the following concepts in future blogs:
  • National Incident Management System (NIMS)
  • Incident Command Post (ICP)
  • All Hazard Approach
  • Emergency Management cycle 
  • School preparedness stakeholder collaboration at all levels
Understanding and eventually incorporating these concepts will allow you to develop a holistic approach to school preparedness at your school that will provide you the opportunity to apply for federal and state grants and make you school and its inhabitants more safe and secure regardless of what occurs. PREPAREDNESS IS NOT SOMETHING DONE FOR YOU BY OTHERS, IT IS WHAT YOUR SCHOOL COMMUNITY DOES FOR ITSELF. You must take ownership of your school's preparedness.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Feb 7: 9th Grader Shot In School by Classmate in Alabama

February 7, 2010:  9th Grader Shot, Killed by Classmate at Alabama Middle School

A male ninth grade Discovery Middle School student was shot in the head by a classmate Feb. 5. The alleged shooter has been arrested and charged with murder. The incident occurred just before 2 p.m. in a hallway. According to WHNT News, a school resource officer on campus immediately responded, and firefighters were on the scene within two minutes. The victim, 15-year-old Todd Brown, was then rushed to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries. The campus was placed on lockdown, and at 3 p.m., students were released to their parents. Police are investigating what led to the incident. The shooter has been charged with murder.

A community meeting was held Sunday, Feb. 7, where school officials told attendees that a community support line has been established. It will be staffed by volunteers trained in counseling starting Feb. 8.

Additionally, a number of handouts were distributed on how parents should talk to their children about the tragedy. Links to those handouts can be found at The school system will be setting up a link on its Web site where students, parents, and other concerned citizens can submit suggestions and ideas for the joint task force that will be looking into ways to improve.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Discussion about Body Found at Norwalk Elementary School Grounds

Synopsis of Incident: (This is a follow up discussion to the article posted yesterday about the incident in South Norwalk and the associated school preparedness issues). A school janitor found the body of a murder victim directly behind the outside of the rear of the school building before the school day. The location on school grounds is now a crime scene which means two things. There will be a slow and detailed crime scene investigation and building media attention. Using the incident (emergency) management cycle as a template here are some of the issues for consideration for the school’s preparedness team, if they have one.

Incident Management Cycle:

Prevention & Mitigation: Why would a number of neighbors hear gunshots and not call the police? Had the police been called promptly, the victim may have been saved seven hours early. What if a group of school children walking to school found the body instead of the janitor?

Preparedness: Is the school administration trained in Incident Command Post (ICP) procedures? Training is available free online from a FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI). The school’s ICP would be activated and use the incident management cycle process to handle this incident.

Response: What are the procedures for dealing with a potentially injured person once discovered? Call 911, check for a pulse & provide First Aid. If believed it to be a dead body, ensure the view of the body and the crime scene is obscured from students, faculty, neighbors, and media without contaminating the scene.

o Prepare for the arrival of the Police to provide support and the arrival of the Media.

o What is the public affairs message you want to get out? What message do you want to get out to the students, the parents, and community?

What is the immediate / short term, mid term, and long term impact of this incident upon ongoing school operations?

Recovery: Clean up the crime scene and provide post incident (short term and long term) counseling resources for student body and staff as required. What are the after-hours activities (drinking, drugs, groups of kids /gangs, vandalism, etc.) on your school grounds and the surrounding area? Use this incident to establish and improve the relationship with the school’s local community to remind them of their role in keeping your school safe and secure. The local residents need to view the school as their school, not just a school. What CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) improvements (cameras, lighting, etc.) can be made to mitigate future criminal activity at or near the school?

If this school did not have a school preparedness team, how effectively did they or would they have managed this incident...?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Police are investigating apparent shooting death in South Norwalk - Norwalk News - The Hour - Norwalk's Newspaper

Murder Victim Found on Elementary School Grounds Before School by Janitor
Police are investigating apparent shooting death in South Norwalk - Norwalk News - The Hour - Norwalk's Newspaper

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The Three R's: Reading, Writing, and Readiness

There is no doubt that our students are our most precious commodity and we are truly concerned about their well-being. We were all young students at one time and generally felt school was safe and secure. The grownups at our school knew what they were doing and would protect us. As parents we send our kids to school everyday with the belief that our kids are safe and secure, and that should some incident occur the adults would know what to do. Do they? Do we? Do you...know what to do should an incident occur? How READY are you?   What specifically would YOU DO if:

A student collapseS in your class and starts having a seizure.

On the way to lunch you smelled a burning smell in the hall without any seeing any smoke.

The Principal makes an announcment issuing an immediate tornado warning.

After lunch a student confides in you she heard two boys talking about a gun.