March 5th, 2013
11:48 AM ET

Oberlin College cancels classes to address racial incidents

By Laura Ly, CNN

(CNN) - Oberlin College in Ohio suspended classes Monday after a student reported seeing a person resembling a Ku Klux Klan member near the college's Afrikan Heritage House.

The sighting of the person wearing a white hood and robe was reported early Monday morning and follows a string of recent hate incidents on Oberlin's campus that have ignited shock and confusion among the student body.

"Since the beginning, there's been anger, frustration, sadness and fear, but we've been working toward a concentrated effort toward change," said Eliza Diop, 20, a politics and Africana Studies major who serves on the college student senate and is a resident of the Afrikan Heritage House, which offers programs focused on the African diaspora, according to the college's website.

Oberlin College is a small liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, with almost 3,000 students. An emergency meeting among the college's officials was immediately called after the report.

In lieu of classes, college administrators asked students, faculty and staff to "gather for a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks," a statement on Oberlin's website said.

"We hope today will allow the entire community — students, faculty, and staff —to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual," the statement said.

The programming included a campuswide teach-in led by Meredith Gadsby, an associate professor and chairwoman of the Africana Studies Department; a collective demonstration of solidarity, including musical performances by campus groups and speeches by campus leaders; and a community convocation entitled "We Stand Together."

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Filed under: College • Diversity • School safety
Survey: Teachers don't want to carry guns, do support armed guards
A survey of teachers revealed most teachers would not bring a weapon to their school but would feel safer with armed guards.
February 28th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Survey: Teachers don't want to carry guns, do support armed guards

By Todd Sperry, CNN

(CNN) - Nearly three-fourths of the nation's teachers say they personally would not bring a firearm to their school if allowed, but most educators believe armed guards would improve campus safety, a new survey showed.

Since the December massacre by a lone gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, many schools have hastened to add safety measures in an effort to prevent similar violence.The most common step since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead has been ensuring that all doors are locked, teachers said.

Of the nearly 11,000 educators surveyed nationwide, most said they generally feel safe in their schools, but disagreed on whether their workplaces were safe from gun violence.

Nearly four in 10 school superintendents who responded said their schools were not safe from gun violence, slightly higher than the 31% of teachers who felt their schools were not safe.

January's online survey was conducted by School Improvement Network, a for-profit company that specializes in professional development for educators and partners with schools, districts, and educators.

Some 72.4% of educators said they would be unlikely to bring a firearm to school if allowed to do so.

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Filed under: Guns in school • School safety • Teachers
February 8th, 2013
04:22 PM ET

How students stayed safe after gunman boarded Alabama bus

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - The drama began last week when a gunman boarded a Dale County, Alabama, school bus, shot and killed the driver and grabbed a 5-year-old boy. It ended days later with the boy, Ethan, rescued from a bunker where he was held hostage, and his 65-year-old abductor dead.

Now that Ethan is safe, even celebrating his 6th birthday this week, officials are poring over the details of how the case unfolded, starting on the school bus.

It played out over 4½ minutes, a scene captured by a camera mounted at the front of the bus. It's a security measure common on buses now.

Witnesses and officials who reviewed the recording said Jimmy Lee Dykes boarded the bus with a gun and handed a note to the driver demanding to take several children. The driver, Charles Poland, refused. He stood, placing himself between the gunman and the students.

Meanwhile, older students opened an emergency exit on the back of the bus and ran away from the bus. They knew what to do: Twice-per-year emergency drills reminded them how to evacuate.

Follow CNN's Schools of Thought blog on Twitter, @CNNschools.

FULL POST

February 6th, 2013
10:12 PM ET

Action film star to lead school shooting response exercise

By CNN staff

(CNN) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s team will participate in a simulated school shooting as a training exercise, with help from a special celebrity guest, according to a statement.

Along with instructors, actor Steven Seagal will lead the simulation, to take place in the Arizona county on Saturday, February 9.

Seagal, who has made a name for himself headlining action movies such as “Above the Law” and Under Seige,” will help educate 40 armed volunteers on room-entry tactics and hand-to-hand tactics, the statement says.

It's one of several new school security events and strategies districts across the country are trying after the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Read the full post on CNN's Marquee blog

What do you think? Is it helpful to have star power, or distracting from real issues of school security? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under: Issues • School safety
February 1st, 2013
11:45 AM ET

Congressional Republicans seek details on Obama's school safety plan

By Sally Holland, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Congressional Republicans are seeking more details on President Barack Obama's plan to reduce gun violence in schools.

In letters to members of Obama's Cabinet, they requested information about the president's time frame and funding plans for the implementation of 23 executive actions on gun control enacted in mid-January in response to the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.

Additionally, they want to know how the president's Congressional proposals will relate to mental health programs currently in place for students.

The leaders of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Housing and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"While we agree we cannot stop every senseless act of violence, we share the president's commitment to reviewing the facts and evaluating proposed and existing policies and programs intended to help teachers, principals, and parents protect their children," the letter to Holder says.

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Filed under: Issues • Politics • School safety
Florida mom donates $11K for deputies to patrol her child's school
A mom paid for deputies to patrol her child's school after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.
January 23rd, 2013
01:49 PM ET

Florida mom donates $11K for deputies to patrol her child's school

By Nick Valencia, CNN

(CNN) - A Florida mother concerned about safety has donated more than $11,000 so that armed deputies can patrol the elementary school where her child attends, Flagler County Public Schools said Tuesday.

Laura Lauria made the decision to donate the money to the school district after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 young students were gunned down, said Principal Nancy Willis of Old Kings Elementary School.

Your ideas to keep kids safe at school

Lauria did not want to be interviewed, Willis said, and she could not be immediately reached by CNN.

"I spoke to her this morning and she may release a statement later today," Willis said. "We were very pleased because of the safety of our children and employees."

The money will help pay for a "rotation of deputies" to patrol the perimeter and hallways of the elementary school through the end of the school year. The program began about a week ago, Willis said.

Guns, guards and posses - in schools?

The school, about 20 miles north of Daytona Beach, has 1,165 students.

The Flagler County school board is looking into "having deputies at all five of [its] elementary schools," Superintendent Janet Valentine told CNN. A plan to have deputies in all schools will be presented to the school board in February, she said.

"There's been some indication from the sheriff that they could assist with the cost," Valentine said.

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Filed under: Parents • School safety
Overheard on CNN.com: Readers debate what really keeps kids safe at school
Schools of Thought readers weighed in on school security this week with more than 1,000 comments.
January 18th, 2013
01:59 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers debate what really keeps kids safe at school

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - In a matter of hours in December, conversations around education stopped being about standardized testing, food allergies and teacher pay. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, everybody wanted to know: What's keeping the kids in my life safe at school?

Should school staffers carry guns? Or should every school have an armed police officer? Do guns have any place on school grounds?

How does mental health fit into school safety?

And is it possible that schools and parents are overreacting - and could that hurt kids?

This week, CNN's Schools of Thought published several perspectives on school security, giving those who work or have kids in school a chance to explain what's happening in school hallways and offices around the country.

Schools of Thought readers had their own experiences and opinions to share, too. Readers posted more than 1,000 comments debating what reasonable school security policies and resources should look like - whether they be guns, police, psychologists or a hard look from knowledgeable community members.

David Thweatt, superintendent of schools in Harrold, Texas, described how his small, rural district implemented a plan to allow some staff members to carry concealed weapons in addition to other security members.

Several readers said they liked that Thweatt's "Guardian Plan" took time to vet and train staff members who wanted to carry guns.

icequeen75: "I think what this administrator (does) makes sense. It is a well thought plan that has the good guys with guns but also extensive training. I also think while we are putting guns in the hands of the good guys, we also need to think of ways to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys.

Encouraged: "Agree 100% with this article. As a kid growing up in suburban Jersey, I definitely knew my school was safer because of the presence of armed security officers. All the more better if there were more trained, but covert, armed personnel. … The poor little ones lost at Newtown deserve their memory honored by providing the means for every student in this country to know he or she is safe and protected when entering a school."

aviva1964: "I really don't know what the big deal is. Many schools already have armed guards. ... Kids see security guards at banks, at stadiums, at airports - security at school does not equate to your kids going to school in a prison, nor will it make your kid afraid to go to school. It might make them less afraid."

But many argued that guns have no place in schools, especially in the hands of those hired and trained to educate kids.

Scott B: "I love my kids enough to not want them to go to school prisons."

TomGI: "As long as the decision to arm the school staff is fully disclosed then fine with me. I want to be informed so I can pull my kids out of there. I don't want my kids going to a school with armed staff. There are alternatives to that, and I want to avail myself of them."

FULL POST

January 17th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: More school resource officers, more safe school communities

Courtesy NASROBy Kevin Quinn, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kevin Quinn is a 17-year law enforcement veteran, the president of the National Association of School Resource Officers and a school resource officer in the largest high school in Arizona.

This week, Schools of Thought publishes perspectives on school security.

(CNN) – Ever since the heart-wrenching shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I’ve been hearing from parents who want to know what I’m doing to keep their kids safe. As a school resource officer in a high school, I’m here to answer their questions and take action as necessary. We’re all thinking the same thing: Don’t let it happen here.

School resource officers have been around for decades, but many hadn’t heard of them before the past few weeks. We’re not security guards or even extra, hired police officers who “stand guard” in front of a school. School resource officers, known as SROs, are fully sworn law enforcement officers, armed, in uniform and assigned to a school full-time, just as an officer might be assigned a neighborhood. We have all the same training as other police officers, and often more. We know how to deal with situations alone or with just a partner, or how to work within a community of teenagers. The National Association of School Resource Officers estimates there are about 10,000 around the country, mostly in junior high and high schools.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama called for more emergency planning and school resource officers in our nation’s schools – a move the National Association of School Resource Officers applauds. The number of school resource officers declined recently because of tight budgets. Some areas split the cost between the school districts and local governments or use grant funding to employ SROs. I’m not into politics. I don’t care how it gets done. But I know that well-trained school resource officers make schools safer.

We do it by working diligently with community stakeholders. The successful school resource officer program is a collaborative effort by certified law enforcement officers, educators, students, parents and the community to offer educational programs in the schools, reduce crime, drug abuse and violence - all of which contribute to a safe school environment.

FULL POST

My View: Mental health services make schools safer
Springfield, Oregon, mourned after a student shot and killed two and injured dozens more at Thurston High School in 1998.
January 16th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Mental health services make schools safer

Courtesy Cathy PaineBy 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.

FULL POST

My View: Crossing the line between school safety and stupidity
Lenore Skenazy writes that new security rules -- no holding the door! -- make us treat each other worse. Is that really safer?
January 15th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

My View: Crossing the line between school safety and stupidity

Courtesy Lenore SkenazyBy Lenore Skenazy, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids. Her show “World’s Worst Mom”  - a title she once earned - airs on Discovery/TLC International.

This week, Schools of Thought publishes perspectives on school security. Tomorrow, a school psychologist reflects on how access to mental health care affects school safety.

(CNN) - In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, we are suffering from a very American malady: Post-Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome.

Folks in the throes of PTSS are so traumatized by a tragic event that they immediately demand something – ANYTHING – be done to prevent it from ever occurring again. Even if the chances of it happening are one in a million. Even if the “preventative measures” proposed are wacky, wasteful, ridiculous - or worse.

On my blog, Free-Range Kids, I asked readers to tell me what their districts were doing in reaction to the Newtown shooting and thus I heard about lots of schools reviewing their lockdown drills – which makes sense, like reviewing a fire or tornado drill. But then I also heard from readers whose school administrators seem to have lost their minds.

One school, for instance, proceeded with its first grade Christmas concert…except that all the parents attending had to hand in their car keys to the office before entering the auditorium.

Because guns don’t kill people … people with car keys kill people?

FULL POST

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