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Tag: school shooting

Why School Safety Schemes Proposed By Trump And Cruz Are Worthless

As people in Uvalde and across the country groped for solutions in response to the latest mass school shooting, Texas Republican officials pointed, again, to school doors.

“Have one door into and out of the school, and have ... armed police officers at that door,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said on Fox News the day after a gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers.

On Tuesday, an 18-year-old armed with an assault rifle entered Robb Elementary School through a back door and opened fire on fourth grade students and teachers, according to state officials. The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said Friday that the back door had been propped open by a teacher minutes before the shooting began.

Texas’ lieutenant governor has echoed the idea of locking all but one door of a school. And Cruz and former President Donald Trump repeated the call for single-entry schools at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston on Friday.

“We also know that there are best practices at federal buildings and courthouses, where for security reasons they limit the means of entry to one entrance,” Cruz said at the convention. “Schools, likewise, should have a single point of entry. Fire exits should only open out. At that single point of entry, we should have multiple armed police officers. Or if need be, military veterans trained to provide security and keep our children safe.”

But limiting schools to one access point is not a proposal grounded in reality, according to several school and safety experts.

Many schools have thousands of children, teachers and staff who could take hours to funnel in and out of a single entrance every day. Even more use portable buildings or have multiple buildings, with children and staff often moving among them. Not to mention that renovations to older schools, which officials say typically have more exterior entrances, put a heavy burden on local taxpayers.

“It is not feasible to think we’re going to ever get to the point where we have one door in and one door out,” said Bill Avera, chief of police and emergency manager for the Jacksonville Independent School District in East Texas and a board member of the Texas School Safety Center.

And while many districts sought to increase school security in the aftermath of Texas’ last mass school shooting in Santa Fe in 2018, teachers’ advocates and school officials fault state leaders for focusing on further “hardening” schools after the Uvalde shooting.

“The other elements of school safety are harder conversations to have either politically or because we just know less about it — for instance, mental health,” said Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD in San Antonio. “But just because they’re harder conversations doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have them, and it doesn’t mean we should restrict the conversation to hardening.”

After the Santa Fe High School shooting, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also blamed school infrastructure, saying there were “too many entrances and too many exits to our more than 8,000 campuses in Texas.”

On Friday, Cruz said it was maddening that “the shooter in Uvalde got in the exact same way the Santa Fe shooter did. He walked through an unlocked back door into an open classroom.” He called for “serious funding” to install bulletproof doors and locking classroom doors.

Architects already try to limit entryways and design schools to guide students and visitors to one main front entrance, but more than one door is necessary for fire safety and to carry out school operations, said Bill Bradley, a school design expert with Stantec Architecture and chair of the Association for Learning Environments.

A school, for example, may need additional entrances to use a school gymnasium for sports, community events or voting booths without opening up the entire school to the public, Bradley said.

“Let’s say you had a high school that had 3,000 students, and you’re going to use one entry point to bring those students into that building every day,” Avera said. “That’s going to literally double the amount of time it takes to get folks in that building.”

Schools also have to account for staff and deliveries for things like lunch items and classroom materials, Avera said.

As school districts grow, their campuses sometimes sprawl with multiple buildings or portables, making a single entrance impossible.

At San Antonio’s Northside ISD, district leaders had to add gyms in exterior buildings to elementary schools initially built without them, said Woods, the superintendent. He estimated about half of the district’s 125 campuses also use portables to avoid cramping in students or to deal with population growth.

To increase safety, school districts can arm school entrances with access-control technology that automatically locks doors from the outside and requires key cards. In the Jacksonville school district, Avera can remotely lock the district’s exterior doors from his phone, but it’s an expensive investment.

“You’re talking about anywhere from $700 to $1,000, $1,500 a door to outfit them,” he said, noting the technology also requires a robust internet and cable network. “So you could see it could get to be very expensive very quickly.”

Secured entryways should still allow individuals to leave a school in situations such as fire, Avera said.

Today, school officials are increasingly paying to build or retrofit schools to require visitors to go through two entrances or a front office, where people are often screened.

In Northside, Woods said, the district added “ballistic security lobbies” at its elementary schools without a full-time district police officer. He said the district has slowly sought to rebuild or renovate older schools, which typically have more exterior doors because classrooms often needed to prop doors open for air flow when schools lacked air conditioning.

“Of course they lived in a very different security environment at that time,” he said.

But building renovations and security upgrades cost much more than the money the district got from the state funds parceled out after the Santa Fe shooting, he said. Luckily, he said, his community has regularly approved local bond measures to make schools more secure.

“That would not be a true statement everywhere,” he added.

Indoors, some experts recommend locking classroom doors, but it can be a tedious requirement when students have to go to the restroom or leave for other activities.

“It’s hard to have a hard fast rule about locking doors,” Avera said. “It is best practice and it’s highly recommended, but there are a lot of circumstances, again, that you can’t always plan for that might cause a need not to have the door locked.”

School leaders can’t only focus on making schools impenetrable fortresses, Bradley said. Studies have shown that school environments and access to natural light can impact learning outcomes, he said, and creating visibility within schools can help staff identify threats from a distance.

“These are still schools, and we want them to be exciting and inviting for students,” he said.

The focus on the “physical engineering” of schools also will not address the more common gun violence that affects children outside of schools, said Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University who has studied school violence.

“We’re just not going to the foundation of the issue. We’re just planting a Band-Aid solution,” he said.

"Trump and Cruz propose “hardened” one-door schoolhouses. Experts say that’s not a credible solution." was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

At NRA Convention, Cruz Blames School Shootings On Everything…Except Guns

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) opted to appear at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, Texas on Friday after multiple Republican lawmakers backed out of making public appearances in wake of the Uvalde school shooting.

Now, Cruz is facing deep scrutiny not only for attending the conference but also for his remarks praising firearms. During the convention, Cruz also offered a number of reasons he believes are to blame for the shooting other than guns.

“It’s a lot easier to moralize about guns and to shriek about those you disagree with politically. But it’s never been about guns,” Cruz said on Friday, after naming tons of excuses for mass shootings, such as “broken families, absent fathers, declining church attendance, social media bullying, violent online content ... chronic isolation, prescription drug, and opioid abuse.”

Speaking of the shooting, Cruz said, “The entire state ― the entire country ― is horrified and grieving." He added, “And it is an evil that has happened too many damn times.”

The lawmaker's remarks have been deeply criticized as many Twitter users have weighed in with their reactions. Some users also pushed back to refute Cruz's claims.







Cruz's remarks at the convention come just days after his previous attempt to blame other factors for the mass shooting. Distancing from the discussions and calls for stricter legislation on gun control, the Texas lawmaker claimed suggested that one solution might be to have fewer doors at education facilities.

“One of the things that everyone agreed is, don’t have all of these unlocked back doors,” he told Fox News Wednesday. “Have one door into and out of the school and have ... armed police officers at that door.”

During his speech on Friday, Cruz also echoed his previous call for more armed law enforcement agents. Those remarks came amid reports criticizing the Uvalde Police Department and its officers' delayed actions to confront and subdue the shooter.

“Ultimately, as we all know, what stops armed bad guys is armed good guys,” Cruz told the NRA. A bipartisan group of lawmakers are reportedly working to craft a proposed piece of legislation that, according to HuffPost, will include: "more stringent background checks, proposals to bolster school safety, and 'red flag' laws that allow authorities to temporarily seize firearms from people who have been determined to be a danger to themselves or others."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Endorse This! Kimmel Calls Out Cowardly GOP After Uvalde Shooting

The totally needless killing of 19 school children and two teachers in the latest school shooting shows once again that we're a nation on the verge of total disaster.

Never hesitant to nail hypocritical Republicans, Jimmy Kimmel began his show without an audience on Wednesday and delivered a poignant monologue about the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead. Kimmel blasted feckless Republicans by noting most Americans support common-sense gun laws, but the legislation stalls “because our cowardly leaders just aren’t listening to us ― they’re listening to the NRA.”

“If your solution to children being massacred is armed guards, you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on,” Kimmel said. “There was an armed guard in Buffalo. There was an armed guard in Parkland. There was an armed guard in Uvalde.”

Watch the entire segment below:

School Shootings: Gun Lobby Doesn’t Fear Silent Majority

The first bullet hit 21-year-old Riley Howell in the torso.

He kept going. So the gunman shot him again.

Riley continued to rush toward him, and wrestled him to the ground. Before or after they hit the floor, the gunman shot Riley in the head.

Riley’s father, Thomas Howell, is a trauma nurse. He saw his son’s body and the evidence.

Think about that for a moment.

He described for The New York Times how he thought Riley died on that last day in April. “This was burned,” he said, pointing to his jawbone near his right ear. “That bullet went up into his brain and killed him.”

The shooter had already killed one student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Four others were injured. Because of his courage, Riley was the last person to die

Seven days later, 18-year-old Kendrick Ray Castillo was sitting in English class at his school in suburban Denver when a gunman burst through the door and ordered students not to move.

Kendrick rushed the shooter.

Nui Giascolli told NBC’s The Today Show what happened next.

“And (the gunman) shot Kendrick, giving all of us enough time to get underneath our desks, to get ourselves safe, and to run across the room to escape.” Kendrick’s bravery, she said, gave several other boys a chance to tackle the shooter to the floor. More heroes.

Eight students were injured at STEM School Highlands Ranch. Kendrick was the only one who died.

His father, John Castillo, described his only child for the Denver Post: “He cared enough about people that he would do something like that… I wish he had gone and hid, but that’s not his character. His character is about protecting people, helping people.”

Please note his shift to present tense. That’s not his character. His character is…

Let’s review.

CNN reports that, so far this year, there have been 15 school shootings in which someone was killed or injured. Last year at this time, CNN reported that since 2009, there had been 288 school shootings, which is 57 times more than the combined total of Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom.

How often do we see news of yet another school shooting and tell ourselves there is nothing we can do? These random massacres. The NRA and its Republican sycophants in Congress and state legislatures, in governors’ offices and in the White House. All this “partisan bickering” over gun law reform. It’s all too much.

We share posts of anger and despair on Facebook and Twitter. “I am just one person, the mantra goes. There is only so much I could do.”

And so the children see us do nothing.

Here in Ohio, nearly half of the Republican house majority is supporting another stunt of a bill that would make us the 17th state to allow people to buy and carry concealed guns without a permit, and eliminate the minimum eight hours of training. The law would also expand concealed carry to include rifles and shotguns, and no longer require motorists stopped by police to reveal they are carrying concealed weapons.

They are mocking us. Poll after poll shows the majority of Americans support tougher gun laws. But Republicans refuse to stand up to the gun lobby because they do not fear the consequences of a silent and passive majority.

The day after the Colorado school shooting, two images showed up, one after another, in my timeline on Twitter. The first was a photo of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry introducing their newborn son to the world. The looks on their faces. I hope never to tire of new parents beholding their miracle.

The other image was KDVR reporter Ashley Michels’ photo of terrorized young children huddled together after the shooting at the STEM school. A little girl in pink, one side of her eyeglasses obscured by a ringlet of her hair, appears to be crying. Next to her, two boys cling to each other. Another girl stands close to them, visibly frightened.

What if each of us — parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles — could recall that moment when we first laid eyes on that new miracle in our lives. Might that remind us of our promises to those babies? Might we remember who we thought we would be?

If we aren’t doing everything we can to prevent more gun violence in this country, we aren’t doing enough. Look at the faces of those little ones huddled together in terror. Long before they have the words for it, children tell us our legacy.

If we continue to do nothing, this will be our story.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Murder-Suicide Kills Two At UCLA, Shuts Down Campus

By Alex Dobuzinskis and Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A murder-suicide killed two people at the University of California, Los Angeles on Wednesday, shutting down the campus for two hours as officers in camouflage and tactical gear responded to reports of a shooting.

“A homicide and a suicide occurred,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters near the scene, saying a gun was recovered at the scene.

“It appears to be entirely contained,” he said. “There are no suspects outstanding and no continuing threat to UCLA’s campus.”

Both victims were males, officials said, without offering further details.

The shooting created a stir as police approached the scene fearing the shooter might still be active and university officials ordered the campus locked down.

At least three city blocks leading into the campus were filled with dozens of emergency vehicles. Officers in camouflage uniforms with rifles, bulletproof vests and helmets surrounded the area of the shooting.

An armored car was parked in the middle of one intersection, and helicopters clattered overhead.

Students and other bystanders stood calmly, taking pictures on their cell phones and watching the emergency workers.

Bioengineering student Bahjat Alirani said police were yelling at people to run from the scene.

“I was in Boelter Hall to take a final and I exit the staircase to see SWAT-looking police yelling at everyone to evacuate immediately,” Alirani told Reuters.

UCLA, with more than 43,000 enrolled students, is in the Westwood section of Los Angeles and one of the more well-regarded schools in the University of California system, known for its successful sports program.

Police received multiple calls of shots fired around 10 a.m. (1.00 p.m. ET), triggering an immediate search for suspects and victims by LAPD and campus police, officials said.

Erica Roberts, a sophomore economics major from Rockville, Maryland, said she took shelter inside the student health center about 10 minutes after she had arrived for work there.

“Everyone is really on edge and contacting loved ones to let them know we are safe,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’m trying to stay in contact with all my friends on campus to make sure they are OK. Everyone is just terrified.”

 

Additional reporting by Amy Tennery, Lisa Girion and Nichola Groom; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Tom Brown

Photo: A Los Angeles Metro Police officer stands watch on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus after it was placed on lockdown following reports of a shooter in Los Angeles, California June 1, 2016.  REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

Sandy Hook Families Sue Newtown, Schools, Citing Lax Security

By Dave Altimari, The Hartford Courant (TNS)

At least two families of victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have filed a lawsuit against the town of Newtown and the school board, alleging lax security on the day 20 first-graders and six adults were shot and killed.

The 66-page lawsuit was given to a state marshal on Dec. 14, the last day under state statutes that legal action could be taken against the community, and recently served at the town clerk’s office.

The plaintiffs are the estates of slain students Noah Pozner and Jesse Lewis. The children’s parents, Leonard Pozner, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, are the administrators. The families are represented by Norwalk attorney Donald Papcsy, a Sandy Hook resident, who could not be reached for comment Monday.

Adam Lanza shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and opened fire in two classrooms. Lanza entered the school by shooting through the front glass windows and entering near the school offices.

He killed school Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach before entering the classrooms. In one of those classrooms, substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau was unable to lock the door because she did not have a key.

Rousseau was assigned to the class shortly before school was set to open when the regular teacher called in sick. Rousseau tried to hide the students in a small bathroom but Lanza walked into the room and opened fire, killing all but one girl.

The lawsuit alleges that Rousseau “had neither a key to lock the door nor any knowledge of the … safety and security protocols rehearsed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in case an intruder or other dangerous individual gained access to the school.”

The lawsuit also alleges the town was negligent in not having a more secure entrance way to the school because it did not have bulletproof glass on the front windows and for having doors that couldn’t be locked from the inside.

The lawsuit also questions the lack of security in the parking lot area. Lanza parked his car at the curb near the front entrance of the school, less than 100 feet from the entrance.

“We are hopeful that the Town of Newtown’s elected and hired representatives will work with these families, who have already suffered, and continue to suffer, unimaginable loss, to help resolve this matter in the most efficient and constructive way possible,” Papcsy said in a statement. “As residents of the town, we all either have, or are going to have, students in our Sandy Hook schools, and we promote the idea of learning from the past and protecting our children in the future.”

Town Attorney David Grogins acknowledged that the lawsuit has been filed, but declined to comment on it Monday.

The lawsuit names the town, school board and Sandy Hook Principal Kathleen Gombos, who is erroneously referred to as Sandy Gombos. The lawsuit also inaccurately names the school superintendent.

As is standard, the lawsuit seeks more than $15,000 in damages.

The lawsuit is the second one filed since the shooting. The first one against the gun manufacturer, filed at Superior Court in Bridgeport, claims that the Bushmaster AR-15 used by Lanza in the shooting should not be sold to the public because it is a military assault weapon designed for war.

Ten families, including the Pozner and Lewis families, and one of the teachers who was shot and survived are involved in the lawsuit.

That lawsuit will attempt to use what is known as the negligent entrustment exemption. In a negligent entrustment case, a party can be held liable for entrusting a product, in this case the Bushmaster rifle, to another party who then causes harm to a third party.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

School District Was Discussing Mental-Health Funding On Day Of Shooting

By Leah Todd, The Seattle Times

On the day that a 15-year-old boy at Marysville-Pilchuck High School near Seattle shot five friends before turning the gun on himself, Marysville School Superintendent Becky Berg was in Olympia, Wash., discussing a grant that would boost mental-health services in her district.

The $10 million award, which Marysville will share with two other school districts, is part of a federal initiative spurred by the massacre of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and several other high-profile shootings involving emotionally disturbed young men.

In light of the tragedy that unfolded Oct. 24 in Marysville, state leaders say they will speed up efforts to put the money to use, hopefully placing mental-health professionals in the district’s schools as early as next spring, and training teachers in mental-health first aid.

Planning will start even sooner.

“We’ll be up there soon,” said Dixie Grunenfelder, prevention and intervention program supervisor for the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

While it’s not clear what motivated Jaylen Fryberg to open fire on his classmates, killing three and wounding two others, or whether mental-health services could have helped him, many believe schools would benefit from having more trained staff on campus.

“Folks don’t just need mental-health services when they turn 18,” said Berg.”They need those all their lives.”

The state’s application for the federal grant paints Marysville as a community that’s close to the state norm for mental-health issues. About as many teenagers experience suicidal thoughts in Snohomish County, where Marysville-Pilchuck High School is located, as anywhere else in the state.

Roughly one in 15 high-school students there_the same percentage as in other counties statewide_reported carrying a weapon to school in the past 30 days. Bullying also happens at about the same rate as elsewhere.

The state says it chose Marysville and the other two school districts for the federal grant as much for their ability to implement mental-health services as their needs.

“We knew there was a commitment there from the district as well as community side to say, ‘We’re really ready to take on some of these issues,'” Grunenfelder said of Marysville.

Berg said she hopes the grant will help her schools address mental-health needs early.

The money, which will arrive as an extra $1.95 million per year across the three districts for the next five years, is part of Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education).

Whether any mental-health workers will be assigned to Marysville-Pilchuck High School has not been decided.

The first step is a required needs assessment in the Marysville community, Grunenfelder said.

At present, Marysville School District doesn’t have any specific training for teachers or other staff on juvenile mental health, said Berg. Teachers talk generally about child psychology and mandatory reporting of child abuse, she said, but not mental-health issues specifically.

Jerry Jenkins, superintendent of the Northwest Educational Service District, which supports Marysville and about 30 other districts, says school counselors and psychologists usually know the signs of mental-health problems, but not enough teachers and other school staff do, even though they often are in a better position to notice them. It’s not just a problem in Marysville, he said.

Another challenge is making sure people who need help know where help is available, said Joe Valentine, executive director of the North Sound Mental Health Administration, which oversees the public mental-health services in five North Sound counties, including Snohomish. Valentine’s group has held town-hall meetings on children’s mental health in the region, including Marysville.

In teenagers, signs of mental illness are sometimes hard to catch, Valentine said. And often, people come to Valentine’s group once the mental illness has become severe. Ideally, it should be caught much sooner, he said.

Teachers and families can keep an eye on changes in behavior, like eating and sleeping habits. And when someone talks about hurting themselves, he said, that should be taken seriously as a cry for help.

But sometimes, things happen that no one could have predicted, he said.

Could the services from the $10 million federal grant, if put in place sooner, prevented what happened in Marysville?

Jenkins, of the Northwest Educational Service District, said he can’t speculate.

“What I can say, [is] there would be community resources identified and training provided, so that if a parent or a student had a concern about somebody they would know where to go to access services,” he said.”Now, would that have made a difference? I don’t know.”

AFP Photo/David Ryder

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U.S. School Shooter ‘Invited Victims To Lunch’

Los Angeles — The alleged shooter whose gun rampage in a U.S. school left three people dead invited five friends to lunch before opening fire on them, police said Monday.

The gunman, widely identified as Jaylen Fryberg, killed one person and injured four others in the cafeteria shooting last Friday before taking his own life. One of those injured died Sunday in hospital.

“The only pre-planning of the event that detectives are able to confirm is that the shooter had arranged for a meeting of friends during lunch in the cafeteria,” said a police statement.

“A witness confirms that the five victims were seated at the table when the shooter opened fire, striking the victims before turning the gun on himself,” it added. Fryberg used text messages to invite his victims, media reports said.

Police are attempting to ascertain a motive the shootings at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, north of Seattle. Local media said Fryberg played on the school football team and had been named a homecoming prince just a week ago.

A teacher, Megan Silberberger, intercepted Fryberg, who shot himself in the neck during a brief tussle according to media reports. The bullet killed Fryberg but it was unclear if it was intentional.

Fryberg, a Native American, had left a series of tortured posts on Twitter, suggesting a teenager used to handling guns, and hinting that a failed romance may have led to the shooting.

Previous mass shootings, like that which killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, have triggered intense debate about America’s lax gun laws.

Providence hospital held a moment of silence Monday at 10:39 am, the time of the shooting.

AFP Photo/David Ryder

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