Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Janitor Brings Gun to School in Waterbury CT


JANITOR LEAVES A LOADED GUN IN A PRE-SCHOOL CLASSROOM 

A 25 yr old male janitor was arrested for bringing a gun to school and leaving it loaded in a pre-school classroom at Bucks Hill Elementary School.The janitor (a 3 year employee) worked in the school over the weekend replacing ceiling tiles and brought the loaded .38 caliber handgun into the school and left it in a holster on a counter near a classroom microwave. The gun was found by two-paraprofessionals who were preparing for class prior to their  3 and 4 year old students occupying the classroom. The paraprofessionals took control of the weapon and contacted the school vice president who then contacted the police. The janitor was arrested for the charges of first-degree reckless endangerment and failing to properly store a firearm.The weapon the janitor left haphazardly was legally registered. The janitor was placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation and his court hearing. The janitor has since resigned his position. 

Points for Consideration:
  • After Repair Work or Construction, Check Student Areas: Since we never know what has occurred in our classrooms over the weekend it is always prudent to check the area prior to students coming in, especially with young kids. Imagine if kids found the loaded gun instead of the adults....? If there is repair work or construction in a school / classroom, there maybe tools or construction materials that could injure someone.  
  • What do you do if you find a Weapon ?: Teaching our school community, especially our students, what to do if they see or come upon a weapon is important. Having this discussion can save a life, especially with young children to immediately report it to an adult if they see a weapon (knife or gun) and to not to touch it.
  • Review of Employee and Student Rules & Regulations: Often viewed as overkill, but administrative officials hiring employees (teachers, certified & non-certified personnel) and welcoming new students and parents aboard need to review rules & regulations that pertain to prohibited items and unacceptable behavior and conduct are important. Documentation of this occurring is also important in holding these folks accountable should they violate these rules & regulations. 
  • Guns + Schools = Zero Tolerance: Registered Gun Owners are made well aware that bringing a gun near a school let alone INTO a school (loaded or not) is a serious legal offense. Taking a LOADED gun into a pre-school classroom and LEAVING it there within reach of children is irresponsible, ignorant, and life threatening.
An Unfortunate Incident Which Resulted In An Arrest & Loss of Employment Which Could Have Turned Out Much Worse Had Someone Been Hurt or Killed. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

SOME SEX OFFENDERS LIVE IN TENTS IN WOODS & WOODED LOTS NEAR OUR NEIGHBORHOODS

Out of sight = Out of mind. An unrecognized national phenomenon is that some sex offenders are living in tents along the outskirts of our communities.


Some sex offenders live in wooded areas, near parkways, behind businesses and office parks, and in wooded lots near our communities. (The above photo is an AP photo of a registered sex offender who lives in a wooded area in Georgia) The focus of this posting is to raise community awareness to this unseen safety concern to the security of our children, families, schools, and communities. As a consequence to their convictions, sex offenders face tough living restrictions as to where they can and cannot live in proximity to institutions where children are concentrated such as schools, day care centers, and public parks. Typically they are restricted from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, child-care facilities, and other areas where children gather. Some sex offenders live in the woods as a last resort while others live in wooded areas to remain undetected for nefarious reasons. In some cases law enforcement agencies know where these concentrations are at and probation / parole officers monitor these individuals, but not in all cases. Regardless of their reasons, the American public must be aware of this phenomenon to continue to ensure our children’s safety.


 
Some Examples:
  •  Winsted CT: Robert Logan (34) a registered sex offender from Arkansas lived in a tent in the woods in Winsted, CT and used promises of candy, ice cream, and money to lure children into his tent (near an apartment complex) to abuse them. He lured a 7 year old girl into his tent and abused her.
  • Waterbury CT: Damien Wells, a 36 yr old unregistered sex offender (federal conviction on child pornography) was found living in a tent in a wooded patch behind a pharmacy on a busy street (Wolcott Street). He was armed with two weapons and ammo.
  • Wooded Sex Offender Camps: Florida (Orlando, Orange County), Georgia (Cobb County), California (Laguna Woods). Just conduct a Google Search.

 
 
Points for Discussion:

  • PREPARE YOUR KIDS: Ensure we continue to educate children about “Stranger Danger”. Teaching them to avoid and ignore strangers who try to engage them, and to make noise if the stranger doesn’t get the hint.
    • We used to teach our child to scream / yell “GET AWAY FROM ME STRANGER!!!”
    • Role play these stranger danger scenarios (Help me look for my lost puppy, Your mom got hurt & you need to come with me to see her, I am lost can you help me) with your child to include their actions and responses.
    • Remind them to maintain a distance from strangers especially in cars and run away screaming if encountered. The goal is to empower & prepare them, not to live in fear.
  • INAPPROPRIATE TOUCHING: Continue to educate them to not allow anyone to include people (relatives, neighbors, coaches, teachers, etc.) they know to “touch their bodies”. Always teach your kids to tell you (NO MATTER WHAT) if this happens to them, it makes them brave and is not their fault it happened.
  • PREDATORS ARE HUNTERS: Remember child sexual predators / sexual predators are skilled hunters who know how to find, target, manipulate, control, and intimidate their victims. They will often tell the victimized child they will "kill their mommy & daddy if they tell anyone".
  • SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: Children like to explore especially in the woods. Ensure you tell your children to tell you if they ever see grown-ups living in the woods or tents in areas where they travel or play to let you or a grown up know immediately.
  • PROTECT THEIR INNOCENCE: Telling your children their are bad people in this world who do bad things does not take away their innocence, but can protect it.
AWARENESS OF WHAT BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN IS OFTEN THE BEST MEANS OF PREVENTING THOSE BAD THINGS FROM HAPPENING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sophisticated & Protracted Threat Against Ohio High School




A VARIETY OF SOPHISTICATED THREATS (IEDs, BIO-CHEM) SENT VIA MULTIPLE
EMAILS WITH THE FBI NOT IMMEDIATELY ABLE TO IDENTIFY THE SOURCE...? 

For a two week period, Orange High School has received a number of cyber threats sent via email (first threat email on Nov 6) and to local television stations. Initially the school was shutdown for a few days and then re-opened and the threats continued. These protracted threats are serious and involve a variety of bomb threats including cell phone bombs, backpack bombs, and car bombs. The situation was further complicated by information put out on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) were it can be difficult to distinguish between gossip, information, and fact. The school and local police have contacted the FBI who have collectively opened a joint (state & federal) investigation. These email originated threats at present have been unable to be exploited by the FBI due to the high tech software used by the unidentified perpetrators. The full resources of the FBI to include their Behavioral Science Unit are involved. The Orange School District and Pepper Pike Police Dept. held a joint presentation with the FBI at a school board meeting with numerous parents in attendance. The school & Pepper Pike PD formulated a security strategy to address the serious threats involving limitations on student cell phones, student backpacks, bio-chemical agents, and single door entrance with accompanying searches. There was an increased police presence at the school and bomb searches by bomb detection dogs. There was also restrictions on students not being able to leave class without an adult escort. The duration and active measures fluctuated based on the changing threats over the course of the two weeks.

FBI Briefing at the Orange District School Board:


The School posted a special page on their website as an information forum for students and parents. The credibility of the threat appears to be diminishing, but due to the seriousness of the threats the authorities are taking no chances. Since the emails are considered evidence in the federal investigation, the contents cannot be directly released to the parents.  

While we hope this is a hoax or veiled threat resulting in a future arrest, this ongoing incident shows how unprepared our educational institutions are with no federal strategy towards school preparedness. Imagine if any one of these threats actually occurred, how would we be looking at this differently?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kid’s Report School Bus Driver Who Is Driving Erratically Due to High BAC.

SEE SOMETHING, HEAR SOMETHING = SAY / DO SOMETHING: Kid’s Report School Bus Driver Who Is Driving Erratically Due to High Blood Alcohol Level.   


WESTAMPTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- A female bus driver in NJ was arrested on Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges after the school children she was taking home called their parents to complain about her driving. Nervous students contacted their parents after Carole Crockett allegedly was seen falling asleep behind the wheel and swerving the bus she was driving in Westampton Township. The parents called 911, and police caught up with the bus at Holly Hills School, while she was trying to pick up more students. The 46 year old bus driver’s blood alcohol level was found to be .25 percent -- more than three times the legal limit of .08 percent. She faces 25 counts of driving under the influence with a minor and child endangerment. Bail was set at $10,000 for the disorderly conduct offense. Superior Court judge Michael Haas set bail on the endangering charges at $75,000. The driver was released after posting bail and her next court date is Nov. 17.

Points For Discussion:
  • These students should be praised for their intelligent and morally responsible act of calling their parents when they saw something wrong and dangerous to themselves and others.
  • One Critique in An Effort To Be Even More Prepared In The Future. Teach children to contact 911 FIRST when there is danger, an immediate serious safety threat, or an injury and THEN call their parents. Activating 911 first can save lives if their is an imminent safety threat or medical injury.
  • Make a public example of these students for doing the right thing and protecting the safety and security of each other. Recognize them at a school function, PTO meeting, and have a local news article to be written about them.
  • Energize the community to always OBSERVE school bus driving performance as they go about their day and to REPORT if they see a distracted school or unsafe (swerving, going thru a traffic light, etc.) bus driver.
  • Positive Use of a Student's Cell Phone / Electronic Device: I am not a fan of allowing students to visibly display or liberally use a cell phone /iPhone during the school day
    (topic of a future post), but this is exactly why students should have the means to communicate if things are unsafe or they need help at anytime
EVERYONE (Students, Teachers, Parents, Administration, Workers, Delivery personnel, neighbors, citizens) all have a ongoing role in school preparedness. These student's got it right and prevented disaster.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Westhill HS Students Arrested After Setting Off Homemade Explosives (June 2011)

Response to Student Homemade ChemBombs in Maryland 2008

STUDENTS WILL ON OCCASION WILL BRING
HOMEMADE EXPLOSIVE DEVICES TO SCHOOL

On July 2011, in Stamford, Connecticut, two city high school students face felony charges after setting off two small homemade bombs containing household chemicals on a friday morning at Westhill High School. A Westhill employee told police he would seek medical attention after inhaling fumes from one of the exploded devices, which were set off in trash bins. No other injuries were reported.


 
The bombs, contained in plastic bottles, produced loud explosions around 9:45 a.m. in two cafeterias at the Roxbury Road high school, said Stamford Police Sgt. Joseph Kennedy. The noise from the device caused "sheer panic" in the cafeteria, where a school resource police officer was posted.

 
The devices did not cause a fire, but one trash bin began smoking in the Raynor cafeteria, Kennedy said. An unidentified teacher or administrator went to the trash bin and inhaled chemical fumes and planned to seek medical attention. The exact contents of the homemade chemical bombs were unknown, but Kennedy said the two students filled plastic bottles with household cleaning solutions and mixed them with aluminum foil to cause a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction generate enough overpressure to cause the plastic containers to explode and release chemical liquid and vapors nearby.

 
Police officers and school administrators used surveillance video footage to identify the two 16-year-olds who set off the devices. They were arrested about 45 minutes after the explosions, Kennedy said. The students were charged with felony counts of second-degree assault, risk of injury to a minor, first-degree reckless endangerment and manufacturing bombs. They are being held at the juvenile detention facility at Bridgeport. Their names are being withheld because they are juveniles.

 
Kennedy said it is unclear whether the 16-year-olds were involved in a Wednesday incident at Westhill in which students threw water balloons filled with bleach at each other. School officials wouldn't disclose how the students will be disciplined. "Unfortunately, student privacy laws don't allow me to share the specific details of the disciplinary actions that will be taken," said Sarah Arnold, a spokeswoman for the district. "But the administration is going to pursue the maximum penalties."

 
According to the district's student behavior policy, students in possession of "explosive materials in school, or ignition of any flammable material in school" can be considered for removal from class, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension and expulsion. Shannon O'Connor, a 16-year-old junior at Westhill, said she was sitting in the cafeteria several feet from the trash bin when one of the teens threw the small homemade device into it. The loud explosion startled everyone in the cafeteria, but the panic quickly subsided. "Everyone just screamed and jumped," she said Friday afternoon. "It scared me and I wasn't even near it."

Points for Consideration:
  • It is a fact of life that teenagers left unsupervised and armed with a little information will try or experiment with chemicals and incendiary devices creating dangerous situations. The phrase "...it is all fun and games until someone loses an eye!" becomes deadly serious when kids can be injured. Many things that start out as a prank or something that seems cool turn out deadly and legally serious for the adolescent participants.
  • Taken to a nefarious extreme, the Columbine incident was planned as a large two phased bombing attack to be followed by a shooting spree to kill the remaining survivors. Bombs (in duffel bags) were placed in the cafeteria during the busiest lunch period, but failed to detonate.
  • Google search how to make a homemade device and you will be taken to YouTube where you can watch short films that will show you how. What is more disconcerting is to watch those short films made by kids who are demonstrating how to do this or that and even the film footage is an accident waiting to happen. Young kids playing with mixing interactive chemicals without any idea of the danger at close range.
  • Parents / Guardians, Teachers, and students need to be tuned to that special frequency that if they "see something or hear something, they need to say something" to an authority figure so immediate action can be taken.
  • The proper placement of cameras can be invaluable in finding out who was involved in an incident and what actually occurred.
  • The reaction of students, school workers, and faculty to an explosion is often overlooked to include the unintended response (heart attack, anxiety attack, asthma attack, etc.) can turn a prank into a more serious affair (serious injury or death).
CHEMISTRY OUTSIDE  OF CHEMISTRY CLASS IS DANGEROUS
for STUDENTS


 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mexican Cartels Recruiting American Children Part II - Elisabeth Mandala

Elisabeth Mandala, the Sugar Land high school senior found beaten to death in Mexico. Her body was returned to the United States with her family from Monterrey. Her body was found with two slain men in a truck in Mexico, near Monterrey. Friends described her earlier this week as a sweet and caring young woman, who loved to ride horses and participated in soccer and clubs at school. But she appeared to be living a double life. After her disappearance, her mother told police her daughter had wanted to be a coyote, a person who smuggles illegal immigrants into the U.S.


It's not known what Mandala's relationship was to the two men in the car. Police have said all three were beaten to death and at least one of the men had a criminal record, although they can't say what it was. On Thursday, the Mexican Office of the General Prosecutor said it had no information to provide on the case.

“She was the kind of person that you couldn't help but like, get along with or laugh with,” wrote school friend Amber Lucas, who said she had known Elisabeth since elementary school. “Elisabeth was an amazing friend, always there for people. She would do anything for a friend that needed her.” Ana Mandic, who has known Elisabeth since fourth grade, described her as a fun, conversational jokester. “She wasn't, at least I figured, the type to really hide anything,” Mandic said.

DRUG CARTELS AND GANGS EXPLOIT OUR CHILDREN (LIKE ELISABETH) BY ENTICING THEM WITH THE PROMISE OF EASY MONEY, A FALSE SENSE OFSECURITY, AND EVEN BEING LIKE A FAMILY.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mexican Cartels Recruiting American High School Students Part I

“Mexican Cartels have corrupted nearly an entire generation of youth living in Northern Mexico and they seek to corrupt our youth as well to further their smuggling operations,” said Steven C. McCraw, DPS Director. “The Mexican Cartels value American (Texas) teenagers for their ability to serve as expendable labor in many different roles and they have unlimited resources to recruit our children.”

Here is a warning for parents about a disturbing new trend. Mexican Drug cartels are seeking younger and younger recruits, and they're finding them in American schools, at present in Texas. Six of the seven Mexican cartels have established command and control networks in Texas. The link between Mexican Drug Cartels and gangs which help promote and sell drugs is apparent. There are thousands of potential candidates for cartel recruitment in Houston area schools. They include kids who are U.S. citizens, speak Spanish and can blend in on both sides of the border. The DPS says parents should pay attention to who their kids are hanging out with since recruiters may not be who you might think. "The people recruiting them may not be much older, maybe a 16 or 17-year-old, but they're tracking them down, talking to them, telling them how glamorous it is to deal and traffic drugs," said Commander Steen.
A couple of incidents within the last 30 days prompted the warning, but the increased threat began a few years ago. Here are some examples:

  • Elisabeth Mandala (an American 18 yr old) left Kempner High School in Sugar Land for Mexico. She wound up beaten to death in a pick up truck along with two men carrying fake identification. It's believed the violent drug cartels recruited Mandala to smuggle undocumented immigrants across the border.
  • Just last week in a border county officers caught a 12-year-old American boy driving a stolen pick up truck with more than 800 pounds of marijuana.
  • Last month two Texas teens were lured to Mexico where they were kidnapped, beaten, ransomed and released in a remote area along the Rio Grande River.
  • Within the past year, more than 25 juveniles have been arrested for drug trafficking in one Texas border county alone.

"The cartel influence is here," said Duane Steen, regional commander for the Texas Department of Public Safety. The DPS is warning parents across the state that children are at risk of being seduced by the cartels that seem to be stepping up their game. "Sometimes this may be delivering drugs. It may be crossing drugs over from Mexico or involvement in some of the other violent activities," said Steen.

"Recruiting is easy for such a vulnerable population," said Kim Ogg, the former gang task force director for the city of Houston. Ogg suspects the cartels are recruiting through gangs. "Some see it (the gang) as their family. Some are attracted to the money, drugs, guns, women, and others are attracted because they have family members in gangs and it seems normal," said Ogg. What the cartels won't tell recruits is how it all could end with jail, injury or death.

As the Hispanic and Latino demographic in America and our schools increase, we must remain vigilant against the impact of Mexican and Latin American cartels and groups, drugs and gangs in our communities, schools, and population. All Drug Cartels from Mexico or anywhere else are a national security problem and threaten the safety and security of our schools as well. We must protect our children.


SIMILAR TO MUSLIM EXTREMIST GROUPS THE LEVEL OF INDISCRIMINATE AND TARGETED VIOLENCE (Beheading, Public Burnings, Body Parts Publicly Displayed, Families Slaughtered, etc.) FROM DRUG CARTELS IS DIFFICULT FOR THE AVERAGE AMERICAN CITIZEN TO COMPREHEND.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

PCB Hazard at Carrington Elementary School in Waterbury CT


During pre-construction for a new school building, elevated PCB levels were discovered at the Carrington Elementary School. This hazard discovery has caused kindergarten students to remain in their classrooms for much of the day. There are different EPA standards for acceptable levels of PCBs depending upon a persons age. This caused the school administrations to switch classrooms between the kindergarten students and the second grade students for more acceptable levels for children below 6 years old. A $50, 000 cleanup and treatment of PCB sources over the summer managed to bring the airborne PCB levels throughout the school.

Points for consideration:
  • Often when reconstruction or renovation takes place on older buildings environmental hazards are often identified since the environmental standards were different or non-existent when they were built. 
  • School Administrators must plan for this contingency during a reconstruction and its effect on continuity of operations (COOP) should PCBs or some other hazard be discovered.
    • What is its impact on on the school schedule, class assignments, and activities.
  • School Leadership must ensure their information campaign to keep the public informed is critical to maintaining confidence in their school community.   

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Follow Up To Yale Student's Death In Lab: OSHA Findings


On a previous School Preparedness Blog entry in April 2011, I posted information about student Michele Dufault's death from strangulation from a lab machine (a lathe) during late night work by herself in a Yale lab. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently completed its investigation. Yale University was not fined for this accidental student death by OSHA since it (OSHA) only has jurisdiction over worker safety, not student safety. OSHA released its finding from its review of the student's fatal accident. A synopsis of the OSHA finding are as follows:
  • The lathe was built in 1962 which had no emergency stop button or safety guard on its lead screw (chuck) which the graduating senior's long hair was caught.
  • No warning signs or safety rules posted in the laboratory's machine shop.
  • The student who was killed should have been monitored by a second person.
  • Her hair was not pulled back which contributed to her accidental death.
  • The university failed to monitor the student's work and adherence to safety regulations which she was briefed upon.


Yale University's response to the accident / OSHA assessment: Stated it provided the student extensive machine tool training and personal protective equipment (PPE) and student's were instructed not to use machinery without anyone else present. Yale University states "...unfortunately, OSHAs assessment contains a number of significant inaccuracies." Since the accident, Yale stepped up its safety training program and limited the access to the machine shop to certain hours where monitors are present.

Points for Consideration:
  • As stated in our past related blog, a TWO PERSON RULE should always be in place when machine are used especially by students. Moving parts, electricity, fuel, and fumes can all individually or collectively injure and kill people so be careful.
  • Often times when we inherit equipment or renuvate facilities, we are pleased to economize or are satisfied we have equipment which still works which is good. However, educational leadership always has to ASSESS the HAZARDS that may occur or exist because something may not be up to present day safety codes and regulations.
  • Your school can have the greatest safety policies, and education and training program; but if your school does not ENFORCE safety through SUPERVISION then human mistakes creep into the occassion as will accidents and possibly death. As we say in the military when it comes to leadership, "SUPERVISION is the most important part of leading others."
    • Policies without supervised enforcement hold little weight in the real world.
  • Investigations and lawsuits due to liability will follow soon after, this is where PREVENTION should always be the focus.
  • It is always better for a educational institution to catch a safety violater and counsel or fine them prior to an accident vice having the institution having to defend why a student was accidentally killed with their equipment on your school's grounds.
  • For accidents to occur their is a link between a number of factors (natural and manmade) that link together and form a consequence chain which lead to injuries and sometimes even death.
Part of teaching our students and reminding our educators to be successful in life is to remain SAFE and SECURE, these are enduring Life skills.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Maryland Teen Arrested for Terrorist Collaboration and School Shooting Discussion

A POTENTIAL THREAT TO A SCHOOL WITH AQ INSPIRED JIHADIST INTENT

http://articles.philly.com/2011-08-28/news/29938534_1_jihad-jane-mohammed-terror-cases
Mohammed K. (a 17 yr old Pakistani born American high school senior in Ellicott City, Maryland) was secretly arrested by the FBI recently. Mohammed excelled in school, winning scholarships based on his creative-writing skills, and was accepted to Johns Hopkins University. The under-aged Mohammed K was arrested for allegedly conspiring (since the age of 15) with the 48 yr old woman (Colleen LaRose) from the Philadelphia suburbs known as Jihad Jane. (Jihad Jane is charged with conspiracy to support terrorists and to plan to kill a foreign citizen.) The LaRose indictment does not cite Mohammed by name, but uses a code name to allege that he helped her raise money and recruit others for a jihad. According to another court document, LaRose sent Mohammed her boyfriend's U.S. passport, which she had stolen for the jihad plot. Mohammed hid it at school. Mohammed K also spoke in a jihadist chat room of a Columbine-style plot with a Pittsburgh-area friend (Emerson Begolly) a former Neo-Nazi turned Jihadist Pennsylvania college student. 




"I had a lot of thoughts about you today," the teen, Mohammed K., wrote to his Western Pennsylvania pen pal (Emerson Begolly) late last year. "About us both doing martyrdom operations together in my school. . . . It was like we both were in a big truck and had guns and we were shooting randomly at a huge crowd of kids." The chats provide new insight into a boy who at age 15 allegedly began helping Colleen LaRose, the 48-year-old "Jihad Jane" from Pennsburg, who U.S. officials say represents a disturbing new face of homegrown terrorism.

Mohammed's chat room friend was Emerson Begolly, a Pennsylvania State University student who was soon charged with soliciting unrelated terror attacks. Transcripts of the chats were publicly filed in that case. During the Nov. 22 chat, Mohammed told Begolly he lived near National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. "The place where I live is a HOTBED of NSA and all the security agencies of Amrika [sic]," Mohammed wrote. "And the kids who study in my school proudly state that their parents work in NSA and FBI, and even carry key chains - piss me off." "Like Columbine?" Begolly asked. "Na'am, lol" Mohammed wrote, using the Arabic word for "yes" and Internet slang for "laughing out loud." Online, Begolly and Mohammed also discussed taking hostages and how to use weapons and bulletproof vests. They also wrote dark poetry. At one point, Mohammed cited advice from the Al-Qaeda magazine Inspire. "We should strike the snake at its head." At another, he hesitated when asked whether he was prepared to strike immediately. "I wouldn't get too excited. I think practice comes first."

Points for Consideration:
  • This is another successful example of the US interagency Counterterrorism Network (US intelligence / Law enforcement / Military) at work and keeping us safe and secure.
  • This is the classic mix of global Islamic extremists leveraging Web 2.0 technology (jihadist chat rooms, Al Qaeda Inspire magazine, etc.) to virtually "chum" for wanna-be / not-so-bright terrorists and radicalize smart but impressionable young people to do their nefarious bidding.
  • Terrorist operations evolve from Planning to Preparation, and then to Execution. Whether they are successful or not, it generates media attention which generates fear (the enduring goal of terrorism) which helps the cause.
    • Those arrested, killed, or blown up are celebrated as being holy warriors (jihadists) and they become Muslim extremist role models for future extremists.
  • John Gidurik (author of Terror at Beslan) warned that terrorist attacks at American schools are a matter of WHEN, not IF.  While these two chat room jihadists were not a band of Chechen (Muslim) Terrorists like in Beslan, Russia; had they went on a rampage in a US school with a few others... it would undoubtedly be repeated.
    • Many of the ingredients were there as they were in the Planning stages (course of action development) and they knew they needed to "practice" (Preparation phase). 
  • While it appears Al Qaeda's ability to plan big strategic level attacks have been frustrated by the US interagency, their mission-type orders (go forth & kill western infidels) to Muslim extremists and low cost Web 2.0 resourcing (Internet, AQ Inspire magazine has a lot of "how-to" information) gives them a great return on their investment (ROI).
  • Had a AQ mid-level manager monitoring a jihadist chat rooms found out that a smart impressionable jihadist American student was considering shooting up his school which was full of students whose parents worked at the National Security Agency (NSA: Signal Intelligence folks), how hard would it have been to exploit or resource a terrorist attack against that American school...connect those dots...very possible. 
Islamic Radicalization of select / disenfranchised members of our citizenry could turn into a strategic critical vulnerability if we are not aware of the foreign and domestic threat to do so and we do not prepare. 

SEE SOMETHING / HEAR SOMETHING - SAY SOMETHING






Thursday, August 25, 2011

West Rocks Middle School Teacher Dies from Bee Sting

TEACHER DIES DUE TO APPARENT ANAPHYLACTIC REACTION TO BEE STING


Carla Mortelliti, a beloved teacher who taught mathematics at West Rocks Middle School in Norwalk died Wednesday while gardening outside the colonial Wilton home she had recently bought with her husband. Mortelliti died after being stung by a bee, said Lynne Moore, the principal of the school. One week before her death, Moore said that Mortelliti told a colleague she had discovered a beehive on the property. She was not aware of her allergy, however. "It's a reminder of how fragile our lives are,"said Moore. Mortelliti had recently moved to
Kellogg Drive
in Wilton with her husband, Jose Torres. To pay tribute to Mortelliti, Moore said the school may expand its Peace Garden. Other memorial services will be planned in coming days.


What Are the Symptoms of an Insect Sting Allergy?


Symptoms of a severe insect sting allergy (called an anaphylactic reaction) may include one or more of the following:

• Difficulty breathing

• Hives that appear as a red, itchy rash and spread to areas beyond the sting

• Swelling of the face, throat, or mouth tissue

• Wheezing or difficulty swallowing

• Restlessness and anxiety

• Rapid pulse

• Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure

Although severe allergic reactions are not that common, they can lead to shock, cardiac arrest, and unconsciousness in 10 minutes or less. This type of reaction can occur within minutes after a sting and can be fatal. Get emergency treatment as soon as possible.



Points for Discussion:
  • It is a tragedy to lose anyone to an insect bite which could occur at any time. ANAPHYLACTIC REACTIONs to bee stings can be FATAL. The following comments are the lesson that this tragedy can teach all of us.
  • Coordinating with your doctor to determine if you have this allergy or any other is important. 
  • If allergic to bees, having a BEE STING KIT is critical which normally contains an EPI-PEN (which is a prescription drug).
    • Like an inhaler for a student with asthma, a student not having an inhaler or bee sting kit available is a bad thing. If an attack is triggered, there is no more helpless feeling than having someone go into shock or not be able to breath as you stand by not being able to have them take the lifesaving medication they should have with them.
  • As educators and educational leaders, knowing the allergies or breathing difficulties of our students and faculty / employees is important to keep everyone safe. 
  • Taking students and fellow faculty members outside and on field trips can increase risks which need to be factored into your school preparedness planning.
Accidents can occur at anytime, being aware and prepared can sometimes
prevent or mitigate these tragedies.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Louisiana High School Shooting Plot Foiled by Concerned Students

SEE (OR HEAR) SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING SAVES LIVES


Aug 6, 2011: Fellow students heard about a plan by some students to attack their high school on the first day of school. School and Law Enforcement authorities collaborated to ensure a school attack planned by three students for the first day of school was foiled. The suburban school to be attacked was Lakeshore High School in Covington, Louisiana. Three 15 yr old teenagers formed a group called Day Zero and they planned an incredible and devastating attack on their school which also identified a specific student and teacher they would kill before firing indiscriminately targeting law enforcement specifically to obtain more weapons. They planned on ending the school attack with a group suicide.  

Judging from the amount of material confiscated and the detail of the plans, Sheriff Strain said, the boys apparently had been planning the attack throughout the summer. He didn't know if the targets were chosen because of something that happened last school year. He would not say whether they already had guns or where they planned to get them, nor would he comment about a possible motive. But Bonnet said it wasn't race, because the arrested boys are of different races. Strain also didn't know whether Day Zero might have had more than three members, adding, "But from every shred of evidence we have collected and every shred of intelligence we have been able to garner, we don't believe there were any other participants" in the alleged plot. The boys turned themselves in this week. A bond hearing Monday will decide if they can leave the juvenile detention center.


Strain said extra deputies are always posted around schools on the first day of classes, and Monday will be "all of that and then some ... Steps most parents will readily notice, and steps that not even students will see." He quickly added of the enhanced security, "I don't want anyone to think this will happen one day and then it will be over." He wouldn't give details.

School Superintendent Folse said he did not know how many students reported the threat or how worried they were. "It alerted them enough to turn it over to authorities, with trust that the people they alerted would look into it and take it seriously." "I'm very proud of them for stepping up and doing the right thing," Folse said.

EVERYONE IN THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY MUST PROMOTE "SEE OR HEAR SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING" ...IT SAVES LIVES.





Sunday, August 14, 2011

Contaminated Soil Closes (Some Of) Greenwich HS Athletic Fields

In July 2011 during construction work to expand the Greenwich High School parking lot high chemical levels were discovered.


The cancer causing chemicals are PCBs and are highly toxic and were banned in 1979. The soil tests found levels which exceed the legal ground limit bordering some of the school's fields. An environmental hazard report will be filed with CT Sept of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Points for Consideration:
  • This is an environmental SAFETY concern which COULD impact on the safety of students, staff, and fans if they are exposed to these chemicals at dangerous doses for a certain amount of time.
  • This is a clear case of business resilience or School Continuity of Operations (COOP). When an incident occurs, "How will it impact on how your school functions?"  How do you mitigate the disruptions or changes to your school operations (curricular or extra-curricular)?
  • There is a great potential for an over-reaction by the school OR the public in their response to hazardous chemicals. The SCHOOL DISTRICT NEEDS TO PUSH ACCURATE INFO TO THE PUBLIC TO ENSURE PEOPLE DON"T OVER-REACT. A smart public affairs response is critical to ensure school operations are not disrupted by the perception of a hazard vice the reality. 
  • This will impact on school's outside Physical Education (PE) classes and extracurricular athletic activities (sports) scheduled. 
GET AHEAD OF AN INCIDENT OR IT CAN CONTROL YOU.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Access INTO & OUT OF Your School Facility

KNOWING YOUR SCHOOL FACILITY IS KEY TO SCHOOL PREPARENESS

Schools and other educational institutions are designed to enhance learning. This learning must take place in a safe and secure environment. Knowing how to get into and out of your school is very important from a school preparedness perspective.  Keeping unwanted people out of your school is important. Knowing how to depart your school as an individual or with a group (class, parents, visitors) is also important. These concerns could come into play during the school day or during an extracurricular activity at your school. These access concerns could come into play during an outside activity (gym, sporting event, graduation ceremony, etc.).  Departing your school facility during an evacuation or having to quickly enter school (reverse evacuation) are important in a variety of school incidents.

How do people gain access into and out of your school? It is a simple question, but a very important one.
  • What doors allow what access? Teachers and grown ups come in certain doors. Students may have some alternate entry points to gain entrance. Delivery personnel may use other entrances to make deliveries or make pick ups. Some exit ways are meant for emerencies only, but are they used for non-emergencies as well. Who has keys for these doors?
  • How about windows? I heard a student (from a local school) talk about a ground floor window with a ledge that they used to "sneak out of the class room" when the teacher wasn't paying attention. How would you use the window in the room you are in as an exit if you were unable to use the door? How could you get through the window?
  • How about access from the roof? If someone gets on your schools roof can they get into the school? (See the story below)
  • How about subterranean access? Are there any underground entrances to your school? Sewage lines, crawl spaces, utilitiy service spaces, etc. Some schools were used as bomb shelters during the Cold War. Is there a crawl space beneath your classroom.
  • Are there any repairs or renovations being done to your school facility which creates school access issues? In Aug 2011, a 15 yr old boy was found dead in the chimney of a junior high school (Ry H. Mann Internediate School in Brooklyn) when he and a number of teenage boys climbed on the school roof and there was scaffolding in the front of the building. Link: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/video?id=8299683
You do not want to wait until their is a crisis to "react" to trying to enter or exit your facility when you least expect it. The head facility manager and janitors generally know the facility, but the Principal, Housemasters, Teachers, SROs all need to know how to get into and out of the school facility regardless of where they are and what they are doing.

Live may depend upon it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Recommended Book: Shooter Down! by John Giduck

Shooter Down! The Dramatic , Untold Story of the Police Response to the Virginia Tech Massacre by John Giduck



This book is an exceptionally well researched book (452 pages) by the author (who has worked with US Special Forces and possesses a Law Degree and a Doctorate) who is able to look at this complex tragedy from many levels.

The book has nine chapters which discuss:
  • 2 Previous School Shootings consisting of the shooter using obstacles and barricades to prevent police response to save the hostages
    • Sept 27, 2006: Platte Canyon HS in Bailey, Colorado
    • Oct 2, 2006: Amish Schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania
  • Background on the educational institution (Va Tech) and how it planned to handle an incident,
  • Evolution of the mass shooter (Seung-Hui Cho)
  • Early Morning Murder of Two Students in a Dorm and police response
  • Follow On Shooting Rampage on campus (Norris Hall) 
  • Police and 1st Responder Response to the Mass Shooting
  • Ongoing Recovery (Police, School, Victims, etc.) from the Mass Shooting Incident
  • Post Incident Issues and Lessons Learned
2 Addendum's:
  • Tactical Review of the Law Enforcement (LE) Response to the Mass Shootings
  •  Legal Review of Federal Legal Standards for LE in US.
Final Comment: The "silver lining" in these tragedies are the lessons learned from them so that they can be applied to ideally prevent and worst case to more effectively respond and recover from a school violence incident. This book is designed for law enforcement, school administration and teachers, and parents so that we can all protect our societies most innocent, our children.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adults (Teachers, Staff, etc.) Need To Maintain Control and Morale during a School Incident


A Mexican Teacher Setting The Example:  The accompanying video is of a kindergarten teacher (Martha Rivera Alanis) in Mexico. The teacher is keeping her young students calm during a drug cartel shootout adjacent to the school where five people outside of the school were killed. The teacher and the students were not injured. The teacher keeps the students focused on singing a song as you can hear the gunfire. While this was not an Active Shooter attack against the school, each incident requires adults to assess what is occurring and influence as positive an outcome as you can influence.

Points for Consideration:  The adults (teachers, substitutes, cafeteria staff, etc.) are the authority figure in the classroom (library, cafeteria, main office, etc.) who needs to maintains their composure in a crisis. Students will often gauge their response based upon the adult's example and response to a crisis. In numerous past discussions with students about their Sept. 11th experiences, the memory that most often sticks out in their minds is how their teacher and other adults in the building / room reacted on that fateful day. A hazardous incident can be scary enough, but it can be made even worse by adults losing their bearing and emotions in front of students. As I have often told young military leaders, that in a crisis situation they need to control their emotions in front of their subordinates to maintain group control and unit morale. Teachers, staff, first responders, and military leaders are human and have human reactions which can't be denied, but need to be self-managed in a crisis if at all possible. Sometimes you need to "act calm" even if you don't feel that way. Focusing on the professional tasks you need to complete in an incident will distract you from your personal feelings. In a crisis, "the eyes of Texas" are upon you so always consider what you are doing, saying, and even how your face looks. Try to keep the students focused on something (keeping quiet, singing, playing hangman, etc.) appropriate for the incident at hand.

We all hope we will have the presence of mind to help our students RESPOND to a crisis which helps lessen the psychological trauma in the RECOVERY to an incident.   

Monday, June 20, 2011

NYPD Releases Comprehensive Active Shooter Document for Study

The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau released a document pertaining to the Active Shooter phenomenon titled: NYPD Active Shooter Recommendations and Analysis for Risk Mitigation. (If you have difficulty with the link, just Google search the title). It is a PDF file document that has four parts and an Appendix.

Part I - Introduction
Part II - Recommendations
Part III - Analysis
Part IV - Analytic Methodology

Appendix - a compendium of a variety of 281 active shooter incidents in a variety of locations ; office, commercial business, factory . warehouse, SCHOOLS, and other locations.



THE SCHOOL ACTIVE SHOOTER INCIDENTS START ON PAGE 78 OF THE DOCUMENT.

Monday, June 6, 2011

11 YEAR OLD STUDENT KILLED DURING A SCHOOL FIELD TRIP


On June 3rd, 2011 at approx. 1230 pm, in Wildwood New Jersey a tragic event took place where a 11 year old student fell to her death from over a 100 feet from the top of a Ferris Wheel ride during a school sponsored trip. It appears the deceased was the only passenger in that particular Ferris wheel car at the time and fell while it was in motion. The Morey's Mariner's Landing Pier sponsored its annual EDUCATION EXTRAVAGANZA as a day where the park invited students and teachers. The Ferris Wheel had been recently inspected for safety with no previous findings. The loss of life, especially a student, that a parent or guardian entrusted to the child's safety to their school is especially tragic. The park was closed for a day and reopened a day later. She was treated at the scene, but was announced deceased at the hospital 45 minutes later.

Points for Discussion:
  • The serious injury, abduction, or death of a student during any school sponsored activity (school day, sporting event, or trip) is perhaps the most unsettling and tragic incident that could occur for a school, but it can unfortunately happen. 
  • The reaction of most educators to a tragic incident is "why did this happen?"..."how did this happen?"..."how could we have prevented this from happening?"
  • Following a tragic incident there will be an investigation and then undoubtedly there will be lawsuits. While everyone knows "hindsight is 20/20" especially when assigning blame or culpability for an injury or death of a student.
    • What were the school district's policies or procedures for school trips?
    • Were they sufficient to ensure the safety and security of students and school personnel?
    • Did the school event planners, executors, and supervisors follow the spirit and letter of the school district policies and procedures for the school trip?
    • Did unusual circumstances occur that were not covered by the school district policies and procedures, and what decisions and action did they take to ensure the safety and security of the students? 
  • The school will need to RECOVER from the incident which starts as they RESPOND to an incident. 
  • Individual students and staff members will require crisis counseling taking an individual approach. 
  • The school will need small group counseling taking a collective approach. 
BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE, AND WHEN THEY DO GOOD PEOPLE NEED TO MAKE GOOD DECISIONS.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Irate Parent Confronting A Student in School Cafeteria

One month prior, the March 29th post titled Irate Parent & The Response of School Leadership. http://schoolpreparedness.blogspot.com/2011/04/irate-parents-response-of-school.html talked about a disruption at CT school in Thomaston. (I suggest you review that post for the recommended protocols).



Now on April 29th in East New Haven at Joseph Melillo Middle School (pictured above) a warrant has been sworn out for the arrest of a parent who allegedly (after receiving a cell phone call from her daughter) came to school and confronted another student in the cafeteria during the school. An excerpt from the story is as follows:     
        

INCIDENT: What precipitated the confrontation? According to East Haven PD an official stated:  “I guess there was a situation ... where there was food being thrown, and this girl called her mother from the cafeteria, saying that this other girl was throwing food at her.”  “I guess she’s had problems with her in the past.” According to police, “it appears the parent was ‘buzzed’ in the front door but did not follow the clearly printed rules,” which require visitors to report directly to the main office. The school has a security camera that shows who is at the front door, but does not have a camera that covers the area between the door and the office, he said. But he said the incident “happened so quickly,” and that as soon as the secretary realized that the woman hadn’t come to the office, she told Principal and they went looking for her. “Instead, she stormed into the cafe and confronted a female student about a situation regarding her daughter,” police said. The mother “went up to the other girl, and from what the other officer was telling me, got physical with her,” he said. “A male student tried to stop the parent and was pushed away by that parent,” police said.

East Haven Police Department Youth Detective Michael D’Amato said the investigating officer, will seek a warrant to charge the mother, whom police have not yet identified, with breach of peace. There may be other charges as well, he said.

What should the Irate Mother Have Done If She Was Concerned“Regardless of what the situation was between her daughter and the other girl, the parent had no right to take the situation into her own hands by entering the school and confronting anyone other than the principal,” police officials said. “She should have gone to the main office to the principal and handled it the proper way,” he said. 

 FINAL THOUGHTS: 
  • Students and Parents need to know and be reminded of how to respond if they are being bothered by someone in school. Contacting a teacher, guidance counselor, housemaster or vice principal, or principal OR even the police are a multitude of options for a student or parent to use to solve a problem.
  • Students and parents need to be reminded of the PROPER way to contact each other during the school day. 
    • Parents and students calling each other and texting each other throughout the school day are an interruption to the educational process. It happens more often then people may think. This does not even address student to student calling and texts which is highly disruptive and can be used for nefarious purposes or have unintended consequences.
  • Parent or student communication during the school day will be addressed in a future blog.           


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Anniversary of Columbine Rampage Shooting on April 20, 1999


Twelve years ago the shocking school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado took place and stunned our nation. How could this happen? Why would two students become mass murderers in their own school? Why wasn't this prevented? Why wasn't the response more effective?  Despite how much this school shooting has been talked about, studied, and discussed; how prepared is your school?


I strongly recommend you read Dave Cullen's book, COLUMBINE which he wrote after ten years of research. It is the consummate case study of what occurred on that fateful day and will help you determine how your school can answer the above challenging questions. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

YALE STUDENT KILLED IN LAB ACCIDENT

COMPLACENCY CAN KILL



http://bcove.me/j1t2cn8s

Tragically, a Yale student was killed in a school chemistry lab accident when her long hair got caught in a fast-spinning lathe. She was killed by accidental asphyxia by neck compression. She was due to graduate in about a month. The Sterling Chemistry Laboratory machine shop is a state-of-the-art facility to support the building and modification of research instruments. Only students who completed a shop safety course had access. Due to the accident, access to lab machinery facilities is limited until a review of procedures was completed. The lab and classes were cancelled. Yale is offering counseling to students. OSHA is conducting an inspection and investigation to determine if the lab complied with safety standards. The Yale Police are conducting an investigation to determine if any laws were broken.


Final Comment: Like all fatal accidents, this is a tragedy. Any loss of life especially a young student a month from graduation makes one wonder, how could this happen? One general safety rule is the two person rule. Hindsight is 20 /20, but the purpose of studying accidents after the fact is to learn from the mistakes or tragedies of others. In a lab or any facility where someone can be injured or killed, there should be no lone individual. A second set of eyes,  a second brain in the room, or another person's intuition can sometimes (not always) be a lifesaver. While another individual in the room may not have prevented this tragic accident, it may have provided prompt assistance and first response to help her.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Educational Leaders studying Leadership as a Lifelong Skill not just Management

Commentary: In my opinion, there is a clear distinction between educational management and educational leadership which is overlooked by many.  You can manage "things" and processes, but you must LEAD people. An individual in an education leadership position hopefully has achieved this position by demonstrated leadership potential or performance. This coupled with considerable quality experience in the academic world are the basic ingredients for the making of a rudimentary educational leader. I haven't intentionally overlooked the academic certification processes or programs in determining educational leaders. However how much of the curriculum is about LEADERSHIP as compared with MANAGEMENT?  Looking at educational leaders from a school preparedness standpoint, it is an area they they typically are not educated or prepared for in any educational leadership curriculum. So the majority of Educational Leaders are not educated or trained in school preparedness or leadership, let alone the criticality of leading in a school related incident where lives, property, or operations are effected.

Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/stanley_mcchrystal.html?awesm=on.ted.com_McChrystal

The attached link (15 minutes in length) is from Maj Gen Stanley McChrystal (now a Yale Professor) who talks about leadership development and leading in the 21st century in a Web 2.0 world where leaders can become overwhelmed in time compressed and information technology accelerated situations. His concept of "reverse mentoring" is also an interesting reality of the success of today's networked organizations vice the traditional legacy hierarchical organization that are the standard in the US education.



In the year 2011, if you are no better prepared than Principal Frank DeAngelis (Principal at Columbine High School in 1999) or President Steger (President of Va Tech in 2007) for a life threatening incident (nature or man-made) to occur at your school than you are not a prepared educational leader nor is your institution. They cared about their students and their school so you must learn the lessons learned from their experiences or you will not benefit from them. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Va Tech Fined $55K for Delayed Notification of a Potential threat on Campus

VA TECH FINED FOR VIOLATING FEDERAL LAW REQUIRING TIMELY NOTIFICATION OF A THREAT TO SCHOOL COMMUNITY.


US Department of Education fined Virginia Tech University for their failure to notify their school community about a potentially ongoing threat to campus safety. On April 16, 2007, when they failed to alert the campus after the discovery of two murdered students at 7:30 am. The 911 call occurred at 7:15 am and the police (Va Tech PD & Blacksburg PD) confirmed the murdered students in a dormitory. Classes start at 8:00 am daily. At 8:52 am, the University President (Stenger) had his office put into a lockdown and off campus PD (Blacksburg PD) placed their public schools into lockdown. Between, 9:05 and 9:15 am the shooter (Seung-Hui Cho) walked into Norton Hall and chained the doors shut. It wasn't until 9:26 am that President Stenger chose to notify the campus by sending out an email to campus staff, faculty, and students about a shooting incident in a dormitory (concerning the 2 murdered students). The campus was not placed in a lockdown nor told that a potential threat and gunmen still existed because they made an assumption that the 7:15 murder was an isolated incident. (In a crisis situation you can never assume away the potential or realization of a threat) At 9:42 am Cho's Norris Hall shooting rampage started and lasted 9 minutes and at the end of the day 33 people were killed.


Points for Consideration:
  • Analyzing past and more recent school shootings is key for school leaders and communities to determine how to best prevent, mitigate, respond, and recover from a horrific act of violence.
  • If the potential for violence, (let alone if a violent act has occurred) you must make decisions based upon worst case scenario and err on the side of caution.
  • President Stenger (ready or not, prepared or not, trained or not) waited entirely too long to put the campus into a lockdown. Two hours after a confirmed double murder on campus did not result in a campus lockdown even after two hours...? Unacceptable. 
  • Educational Leaders (Superintendents, University and College Presidents, Principals) need to ensure they have thought through and "done their homework" to prepare for all hazards, especially acts of violence. 
  • School Leaders will have to make decisions in a crisis with incomplete information, and if an assumption is made it is in preparing and responding to a worst case scenario vice HOPING everything will work out OR encounter the "paralysis of analysis: by trying to come up with the perfect decision vice a good enough decision that protects LIVES first.  
  • School Leaders need to take educate, train, and exercise their organizations and themselves to make good decisions.
    • Taking free online courses from FEMA's Emergency Management Institute (EMI) on:
      • Courses on: Emergency Management Planning for Schools, Emergency Management Planning for Universities, Active Shooter Response, Workplace Violence, and Incident Command Posts  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

IRATE PARENTS & THE RESPONSE OF SCHOOL LEADERSHIP

Patience and Preparedness Are Key

IRATE PARENT CAUSING A DISRUPTION AT SCHOOL

On March 29, 2011 in Thomaston, CT a mother was arrested and charge with second degree breach of peace. (She will appear in court next month to determine if she is guilty of these charges / allegations). This mom came to Thomaston High School and (as reported in the news) went on a profanity-laced tirade. The school administrators called the police because they felt this parent who came to the high school at 8: 00am to talk about her daughter had become unruly. During the discussion, the mother became belligerent and was raising her voice in the office using profanity, and started throwing papers around. She was asked to leave and she refused. She then departed the school before the police arrived as the Principal escorted her from the building. She continued to yell and curse in the hallway and foyer during her departure as students and other school visitors witnessed. The mother turned herself in once she found out there was a warrant issued for her arrest, she was released with a promise to appear in court later next month.



POINTS FOR CONSIDERATION:
  • Parents, students, teachers, and administrators are a "team" that needs to cooperate and collaborate to ensure that everyone's best efforts and student learning results are achieved. 
    • Like any team, each team member can have good days and bad days, possess different levels of understanding of what is appropriate and acceptable, as well as opinions on how a particular situation should be resolved.  
  • School administrators and teachers always want to be available for parents and guardians that have concerns about students. However, that is not always possible or the best course of action should the parent / guardian show up IRATE and unannounced.
    • A parent can certainly come to school unscheduled and unannounced, but they need to know that unless it is a dire emergency (student safety or security related), they may be expected to wait and sometimes perhaps for a long time.
      • Teachers have classes to teach and extra duties to perform AND school administrators
      • Other parents and guardians have scheduled meetings (progress review, PPT, etc.) with teachers & administrators
  • If a parent is irate and shows up unannounced, school administrators and teachers may not know what the problem is so it is imperative for a school representative to try and find out the nature of the parent / guardians concern. This screening allows the school to be able to properly and accurately respond to the parent's concerns and issues 
    • The situation may even require a period of time for the school leadership to investigate or gather information about the irate parent's concerns. Accurately defining an issue, problem, or concern is critical to solving it vice responding to a perception of what might be going on.
  • Many teachers, guidance counselors, or school administrators are parents themselves so they are aware of the emotional concern for their own children and how intense those emotions can become in situations where a son or daughter's academic performance or school behavior is below their acceptable standards.
    • Acknowledging a parents frustration and the school's earnest desire to satisfy the parents concerns is critical to determine a "win /win" mutually beneficial end result.
    • Letting a parent know that if a mistake was made by the school that it will be rectified once the school leadership is aware of the specifics and can determine the best response.
  • On some occasions a parent or guardian may come with other family members or unknown persons. You need to clarify who is who and discreetly verify the person you are dealing with is in fact the parent  or guardian. Non parent / guardian members showing up at an impromptu meeting you are responding to requires discretion. 
  • If parents / guardians become irate where civility, safety, or security comes into question, then the school needs to have certain protocols to ensure professionalism and safety in the school environment.
  • School Protocols such as:
    • Raised Voices = a response of a tactful warning requesting the parent to please lower their voice or we will have to reschedule this meeting at a later date when all parties are calmer. If they do not comply you need to terminate the meeting and ask them to leave politely.
    • Profanity or Insulting Comments = a response for terminating this meeting until the discourse is more civil. Prompting a fellow school official to make the School Resource Officer (SRO) aware, visible, or join the meeting is always prudent. 
      • If you anticipate or interpret a developing negative situation and there is no SRO, calling the police to have an officer available is key to controlling a situation. 
    • Any Aggressive Action (invading someone's personal space, throwing paper, slamming a door, getting up aggressively from a chair causing it to fall, etc.) = a response for terminating the meeting and requesting the irate parent to leave the school premises, if they do not comply contact the police immediately.
    • Any Evidence of Unstable Behavior or Alcohol / Substance Abuse Use = contact SRO, if necessary the police. Notify them the meeting will be rescheduled and they will need to leave the school as there are other scheduled meetings you must attend. 
    • Violent Action or Threats = contact SRO, 911, and possibly consider putting the school into a lockdown if there is concern about violent acts continuing within the school. Ensure 911 knows the nature of the situation so they don't misinterpret a hostile parent with an active shooter situation.
  • Ensure everything said or done is documented (statements written) to include viewing security camera tapes.
  • School security and access control personnel should be made aware of any disgruntled persons  removed from school, so they are not allowed back into the building. 
Final Comment: The school leadership and all of the members of the school community are human beings as well, with personal feelings. It is imperative to always try to professionalize and stabilize every situation. The school should always seek to maintain the moral and professional high ground if a parent or guardian unfortunately loses control in what they say or how they act. Student and Staff Safety and Security are paramount.