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  • Responding to the Roswell School Shooting – Expert article and interview

    January 17, 2014

    School shootings affect the lives of students, parents, schools and community members. The latest shooting in Roswell, New Mexico reminds us of central role that schools play within our communities. The following article and accompanying video interview is intended to connect you with relevant and reliable information for effectively responding to student, staff and community concerns. School Safety Expert and long-time school district administrator David Perrodin, wrote the following article earlier this week. A 2-3 minute video interview follows the article.

    Watch the 2-3 minute video interview with school safety expert, David Perrodin, highlighting the main points from his article below.

    What the Roswell, New Mexico School Shooting Means for Every School Administrator in America
    By David P. Perrodin – School Safety Expert

    On Tuesday, January 14, 2014, a 12-year-old boy entered a packed gymnasium at Berrendo Middle School with a shotgun concealed in a bag.  Moments later, he retrieved the weapon and wounded two randomly-targeted students before a staff member approached the boy and fortunately persuaded him to surrender the firearm.  It’s not surprising that this shooting was halted by the actions of a staff member.  The United States Secret Services (2002) determined that most school-based attacks (32% were stopped through intervention by school administrators, educators or students.  It is astounding, however, that adults weren’t forewarned of this attack.

    Silence is deadly

    The Youth Code of Silence will be dissected over the upcoming days and weeks.  Early reports suggest the attacker warned other students of the pending rampage.  Research has soundly informed us that the assailant plans the attack in advance of carrying it out and that someone else knew about the attack before it took place.  Yet, many threats are never reported to adults.  The proliferation of social media yields artifacts of threats in the form of emails, blog posts, etc.  Yet, social media’s dark side has delivered swift, expansive, irrevocable retaliation against youth who “snitch” on their peers – further enforcing preservation of the Youth Code of Silence.  Most virtual evidence is discovered through post-attack forensic analysis.  We must continue the work toward understanding why youth do no share information with adults.

    What every administrator should do following a school shooting in America:

    • Contact your local police department about obtaining donated gun locks and have them available at your next parent-teacher conferences.
    • Assemble student-focus groups; listen to what students share about their perception of school culture, threats and adolescent physical and virtual hangouts.  Mobile device accessible social media hubs evolve daily.  Snapchat, Askfm, Kik and Instagram didn’t exist 5 years ago and most didn’t have mobile applications 3 years ago.  Despite what adults believe, Facebook is no longer the preferred media site for youth.  Conduct a qualitative analysis to identify themes from your discussions with students and also to learn what’s “in” with social media.
    • Review tactical communications pointers for staff – a few key phrases could de-escalate a situation.  “What can I do to help you?” has a better likelihood of a positive reaction versus directing someone to “Calm down!”  Again, local police are trained in tactical communications and can provide tips for staff who might find themselves in the presence of an attacker.
    • Provide a refresher of your school’s threat input system to students and parents.  How are threats reported at night or on weekends?  Do students perceive the system as user-friendly and that it protects their anonymity?
    • Schedule a Google Alert for your school crisis response team to regularly receive a re-cap of the most relevant articles about “school shooting”.  Select an article, share it with your school’s crisis team or administrative cabinet and simply ask, “How would we have handled this situation in our school?”  This cognitive exercise warrants a succinct discussion and corresponding reference of safety protocols.  The process will inevitably unveil proactive measures.

    What every administrator should avoid following a school shooting in America:

    • People rush to assess, or prove, their school culture following a national shooting incident.  SurveyMonkey and Google Survey allow anyone to create an efficient electronic survey in minutes.  A survey should complement, not replace, rich discussions of a student focus group.  Furthermore, a survey is much more than the generation of broad climate questions flawed by vague terminology such as “safe” or “good”.  Local surveys are meaningful when the school leaders identify the constructs, or primary headings, they seek to inform.  Next, develop specific questions to harvest information to support those headings.  For example, if you have identified a construct of “Contextual Considerations” then you would ask questions about the perception of retaliation for sharing threat information and also about the discipline policies in the school.  If students feel that the school’s zero-tolerance policies are too strict, they might actually feel concern for the well-being of the aggressor and shield him rather than subject him to the harsh punishment administered by adults.  There’s nothing to be gained in learning that 90% of the students completing the survey rated their school culture as “good”.  There is value in knowing that 75% of students wouldn’t “snitch” on a peer as they judged the school’s discipline measures were too harsh for any student.
    • Avoid knee-jerk purchases of steel doors, bullet-proof glass and metal detectors.  Remember the three equal pillars to school safety:  physical environment (strengthen the physical structure), drills (promote an efficient response to a crisis) and school connectedness (make the student more resilient to engaging in harmful behaviors).  Be the voice of balance as restless people will demand reinforcement of the school building as the most visible way to create a safe setting.
    • The staff member at Berrendo Middle School saved countless lives by confronting the attacker.  However, this approach is purely a gamble and while it worked in this situation, it was ineffective in the Sandy Hook shooting.  Be very careful endorsing a culture that encourages staff to “take out” an armed attacker.  Self-defense in a breached, no escape area is one thing – assembling a posse and tracking down the shooter is a much different matter.  In most instances, getting students and staff behind locked doors is the best option to preserving lives.

    David Perrodin worked twelve years as a Director of Student Services before exiting the profession to focus exclusively on researching school safety in conjunction with his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  He is also a school safety consultant and has presented on public television, in school districts and at several school safety conferences.  David’s article about the Youth Code of Silence will be featured in the February edition of the American Middle Level Educators Magazine.  In addition, David is a core faculty member with Viterbo University’s Educational Leadership Department and instructs aspiring administrators on the nuances of school safety.  Learn more about David at www.crisisprepconsulting.com

    Sprigeo will co-sponsor staff development sessions with David Perrodin this spring and next fall. David has limited availability for staff development and parent education presentations this spring and is currently scheduling dates for the fall. If you would like to find out more about co-sponsoring a staff development day please contact Sprigeo.

     

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