Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Maryland Teen Arrested for Terrorist Collaboration and School Shooting Discussion

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. 


Thursday, August 25, 2011

West Rocks Middle School Teacher Dies from 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


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.


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. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Access INTO & OUT OF Your School Facility


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:
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.