By Laura Ly, CNN
(CNN) - Dartmouth College canceled classes Wednesday after a student protest sparked a threatening backlash on a campus online forum, according to a college spokesman.
On Friday, current Dartmouth students interrupted a welcome show for recently admitted students by chanting about aspects of student life they found troubling, such as issues around homophobia and sexual assault on campus. The welcome show was designed to highlight why the prospective students should attend Dartmouth, college spokesman Justin Anderson said.
The decision to cancel classes was prompted by a series of threatening and abusive online posts that targeted the students who protested at the welcome show, a letter sent to Dartmouth students and faculty said.
The online postings appeared on BoredAtBaker.com, a Dartmouth-exclusive forum where students post about happenings on campus, according to student Dani Valdes, 22. The website has since been shut down.
Comments on the website included derogatory, homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks directed at the student protesters. Threats of violence and sexual assault also appeared. Although student protesters expected campus-wide reaction, they say were not anticipating the level of hostility they experienced.
By Katie Lyles, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Katie Lyles, who teaches third graders in Colorado, was a student at Columbine during the massacre 14 years ago.
(CNN) - At 16, my innocence was shattered when two gunmen murdered 13 people at my school and wounded countless others.
Columbine High School promised to be a safe and secure place of learning. And that promise was broken on April 20, 1999.
On that morning, I headed to school worried about my 10th grade math test and my upcoming track meet. Useless worries: The test was never given and we never held the meet.
Scars remain from that day that no one can see. Scars that made my worries about math tests or track performance pale in comparison to whether my science partner would live or whether my classmate's speech would be impaired by the shrapnel lodged in his skull. Today, those mental scars throb in large crowds and force me to scan the room for exits. They make my heart beat faster when I hear the blades of a helicopter overhead.
Now, as a teacher in my eighth year in the classroom, I consider every day that I go to work a privilege. I cherish my students' joy and enthusiasm, and most importantly, their innocence.
I believe that it is our job, as a society, to protect these virtues in our young people. I want them to be worried about math tests and track meets and about science fairs and student council elections - the kind of normal school stuff that builds character. But our epidemic of gun violence is creating a culture of fear in our schools, where students are anxious about safety and intruders. These are worries no student should have.
This becomes even more apparent when we conduct our monthly emergency drill at our school. It's a way to be prepared for the worst, so we practice lockdowns, fire drills and evacuations.
The other day, I was explaining to my third graders that we were going to practice a lockdown just in case a bear happened to be on the playground - a real scenario for our Colorado school. I have used this example my entire teaching career because it's an easy and nonthreatening reason to practice a lockdown.
One girl raised her hand and asked: "Is this what we would do if a bad guy came with a gun to hurt us?"
Editor’s note: Ray Salazar is a National Board Certified English teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. He writes about education and Latino issues on the White Rhino blog. Follow him on Twitter @whiterhinoray.
By Ray Salazar, Special to CNN
(CNN) - During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama spoke about gun violence, and he continues the discussion in Chicago today. He recognized in his speech, “our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.”
As a high school teacher in Chicago, I want to hear more than an acknowledgment that shootings are happening, that young people are dying violently and unfairly. I want to hear his determination to push through Second Amendment politics and assure us his leadership will make our streets safer. We might not be able to prevent every senseless act, but we must decrease the desensitization that encourages only one-word reactions to shootings: “Again?”
My first teaching job in 1995 focused on troubled teens at an alternative high school on Chicago’s Southwest side. I grew up in this neighborhood, but only knew gun violence in Little Village as a distant reference - until one of my students got shot in the middle of the day, about one mile from the school, about one block from my house.
Sergio had returned to school in 1996 after dropping out. He slouched and wore a black, dusty hoodie. He struggled. His spelling was so bad that all I could do was rewrite his crooked sentences so he could then rewrite them correctly. He never complained. He sat, mostly silent, usually working. One day, his parole officer met with me and said his spelling was getting better. In 1997, he was shot and died.
He became the first person I knew killed by being shot. A couple of years later, someone shot a gang banger in front of my house while I dozed off to “Saturday Night Live.” A few years after that, my wife and I were shot at near our home as we returned from a wedding. Despite my anger, my disappointment, my fear, I felt all I could do was call 911.
In 2012, Chicago reached 500 homicides. So far this year, Chicago has at least 42 murder victims, one of them a high school student who performed at events around Obama's inauguration.
We've explored controversial issues in my classes, but we never took on gun violence, perhaps because it wasn’t controversial. There is only one side to it - it should not exist. I didn’t know how to push students into a deeper conversation or meaningful debate about this.
It was after the Sandy Hook shooting, however, I felt obligated to engage my students in conversations about guns. Gunshots, because of Colorado, Arizona and Connecticut, finally captured people's attention beyond Little Village. I knew my students would hear perspectives on the news, online, on Facebook. What would they say? What would they do? They needed to know the vocabulary, the history, the rhetoric to challenge closed minds and respond to open-ended questions in ways that represented their individual reality. We needed to join the national discussion.
These, after all, are the experiences that show students how the writing in their notebooks matters outside of our classroom.
By Cathy Paine, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Cathy Paine is a school psychologist in Springfield, Oregon, and chairwoman of the National Emergency Assistance Team for the National Association of School Psychologists. She was a panelist at the White House Summit on School Violence Prevention in 2006.
This week, Schools of Thought publishes perspectives on school security. Tomorrow, a school resource officer explains his role in campus security.
(CNN) - I received the emergency call at 8:14 a.m. on May 21, 1998.
Eighteen minutes earlier, a 15-year-old student had entered Thurston High School armed with two handguns and a semi-automatic rifle, and in a matter of seconds, killed two students and wounded 25 more, some sustaining life-long injuries. As a school psychologist in Springfield, Oregon, I was called because of my role on the district’s crisis response team. In a few short moments, we were transformed from innocent, unsuspecting individuals engaged in our normal routines into traumatized victims of a school shooting spree.
Those shots shattered our sense of safety and security; no longer could we say, “It can’t happen here.” While nothing in my 23 years of experience in education prepared me for the magnitude of that horrifying event, my training as a school psychologist did prepare me to know how to respond in the moment and to provide counseling support to students and staff in the days, weeks and months of recovery. The experience also reinforced for me how critically important mental health is to all aspects of the school safety and violence prevention continuum.
Since then, I have devoted significant energy to advocating for effective school safety, crisis prevention and intervention strategies at the local and national levels as a member of my district crisis team and as a member and chairwoman of the National Association of School Psychologists’ National Emergency Assistance Team. In both roles, I have learned some important lessons about what works, lessons I strongly believe should be our guiding principles as the nation grapples (once again) with the question, “How to we keep our students safe?” in the aftermath of the heartbreaking events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
(CNN) - For the first time since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Christine Wilford plans do something remarkable on Thursday that once was routine: drop her child off at school.
The last time her 7-year-old son, Richie, was in class was on December 14, when a gunman smashed his way into his school in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 26 children and adults.
As shots rang out, Richie's teacher locked the door and huddled her students into the corner as the shooter roamed the hallways, wielding an AR-15 assault rifle and firing.
When it appeared safe, the children were then hurried away to a nearby fire station, where teary parents either reunited with their sons and daughters or learned that they had been killed.
Nearly a month later, Wilford said her son still has trouble sleeping and is often scared by loud noises.
But on Thursday, he will join hundreds of other Newtown students returning to class for the first time since the tragedy.
"We think it's good he's going back," Wilford said. "If I leave my child anywhere, I'm leaving a piece of my heart, so it's difficult to leave him."
But Richie apparently isn't afraid and says he's looking forward to seeing his friends, she said.
Instead, Richie and his classmates are expected to travel to Chalk Hill Middle School in the nearby town of Monroe, where a green-and-white banner greeting the children hangs on a fence.
In the midst of civil war, Syrians face political upheaval, starvation, bombings and violence – nearly 40,000 people were killed in the civil war last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday. But one thing hasn't changed: a generation of children hoping to learn, to feel a sense of normalcy.
At one school in Damascus, 1,600 children come in two shifts. Educators say any child is welcome, regardless of political affiliation. Some students are new to the school, displaced from other areas. This school isn't entirely safe either, though. Within a few weeks late last year, 35 students and two teachers from the area were killed.
"We keep the school open and help with their fears," head teacher Abdul Kader Amouri told ITN's Alex Thomson. "We can't do as much as before, but the key thing is to try and deal with their anxiety."
(CNN) - Facing down a gunman, placing yourself in the path of flying bullets, forfeiting your life to protect innocents. It's a job description fitting for a soldier or police officer, but for a school teacher - an elementary school teacher at that?
What the teachers and principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School did for the children in their care could win a soldier in a war zone a Purple Heart.
But the soldier makes a conscious choice to face mortal danger when he or she enlists. Sandy Hook's heroes did not.
Adam Lanza did not give them that choice when he opened fire in the hallway and two classrooms Friday in Newtown, Connecticut.
Long before it happened, Principal Dawn Hochsprung tried to prevent a shooting - or any other calamity - by implementing new security measures at Sandy Hook. She made sure teachers practiced getting into lockdown mode.
The front door was locked when the gunman arrived. A mother meeting with Hochsprung about her struggling child was astounded that the gunman had gotten in: "It's a locked school; you have to be buzzed in," she later said.
Lanza blasted his way in.
Hochsprung heard the loud pop. She, school psychologist Mary Sherlach and Vice Principal Natalie Hammond went to investigate.
They were acting as the first line of protection and paid heavily for it. Only Hammond returned from the hallway alive - but not unscathed.
Along with Hochsprung, 47, and Sherlach, 56, four teachers perished.
Victoria Soto, 27, moved her first-grade students away from the classroom door. The gunman burst in and shot her, according to the father of a surviving student.
"She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children," her mother, Donna Soto, told CNN's Piers Morgan.
It's the first day back in class since a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and questions aren't necessarily getting easier to answer. Just as parents and teachers want to know why 20 children and six educators died, many kids are trying to piece together what happened and what it means.
Here are tools, guidance and suggestions to help you decide how to talk about with the kids in your life, whether in class or at home.
1) CNN Student News devoted Monday's 10-minute episode to explaining and reflecting on the shooting and its aftermath. Student News is a free, commercial-free, daily news show for middle and high school classrooms. Some students who wanted to type out thoughts, questions, reflections and prayers are sharing on the CNN Student News A to Z blog, as well.
2) Know the signs of anxiety and fear. Children of different age groups express emotions in different ways, whether they're directly affected or traumatized by conversations and media. Here are suggestions for how to handle each age group, and what signs reveal they're still struggling.
"It is minute by minute, case by case. It's really a matter of listening and responding in a way that fits the framework of their understanding," said Dr. John B. Lochridge, an Atlanta-based child and family psychiatrist.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - Sandy Hook Elementary School probably did everything right. Its staff and teachers worked every day to create a climate that valued kindness and posted the plan for all to see. They had lockdown drills that trained everyone to stay low and quiet in the event of an emergency. A security system introduced this year required visitors to ring a bell, sign-in and perhaps produce a photo ID. After 9:30 a.m., the doors were locked.
And now it's the home of the one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. Twenty children dead and eight adults, including the shooter.
Those who know the world of school security are already predicting what comes next: A strong reaction - maybe an overreaction - by parents, schools and legislators who want to take action. Politicians will be elected on platforms of school safety. Vendors will turn up with technology and plans to sell. Schools will rewrite their crisis plans and run extra drills.
It happened after the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, and again after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
And within a few months or years, it'll be back to cutting security budgets and fighting for time to train staff and teachers.
"The vast majority have a crisis plan on paper. It's much more common that we find those plans are collecting dust on the shelf and they're not a part of the culture or the practice," said Kenneth Trump, a school security consultant. "I don't believe we need to throw out the book of best practices on school safety. I think we do need to focus our resources, times and conversation back on the fundamentals."