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So to preface this post.  I am not saying anyone is wrong or I disagree with anyone, but the educational world is extraordinarily complex with no clear right or wrong answers.

On 12/6/2021 at 6:15 PM, Zathras said:

I have to disagree a bit.  While I think the most responsible person is the shooter, and the parents also deserve prosecution.  However, I think the school should not have allowed the kid back into school.  Furthermore, they should have called the police and had him searched right there on the spot.  That said, I don't think criminal charges should be brought against the school or administrators, but I think civilly speaking, if I had a kid that was killed because they didn't search this shooter, I would definitely sue the school district.  

School's legal obligation on how to handle these situations varies state to state.  In Colorado the student would either have to a.) go home or b.) stay segregated from the student population until the threat assessment is completed AND next steps are addressed.  This may not exist in Michigan.  If it doesn't, it likely will.  Public schools can search any locker at any time without reason.  A school most have reasonable cause to search a backpack or purse.  They certainly had it here.

 

On 12/7/2021 at 6:41 AM, Zathras said:

Hopefully not, because there is a difference between special needs kids simply acting out, and death threats. However, regardless if they are special needs or not,  I think any kid who makes death or injury threats (verbal, written, picture, or online) should be expelled in this day and age.   These days, there is no way to know if there is a gun at home and if said kid who made the threat has access to that gun.   

Many times there is NOT a difference between a student with special needs acting out and death threats.  Death threats are frequently a manifestation of the disability.  And who is to say the student making death threats doesn't have an diagnosed mental disability? 

What's a threat?  A middle school student in an online chat room saying he is going to bomb the school?  A second grader posting a TikTok of him holding a gun saying he is going to kill his teacher the next day at school?  A high school student significantly impacted by autism yelling in an emotional burst in a self-contained classroom he is going to kill a teacher?  All of these are real examples I have dealt with.  All of these are threats...do you expel all these students?  The only student that would come out high on a threat assessment analysis is the second grader (specific time, location, target, and access to means).  If you do expel a student, then what?  For many of these students, school is the ONLY place they receive mental health support, structure, some level of safety, and a meal.  What does that look like to have an emotionally disturbed and/ or disabled teenager with no accountability, no support, and no one checking in?

 

Sooo...a few points starting with the Colorado policy I mentioned before...

1.  This policy is pretty common sense...right???  However, these threat assessments involve multiple staff members (primarily administration and mental health) that can take days.  The parent interview alone can take hours and requires at least two staff members to be present.  That is a full day that students whom have legally contracted services do not receive services (because we can also get sued for not meeting those minutes even if it is due to a lack of staffing).  One year a prior school I worked at had over 100 threat assessments!  So back to "why doesn't the school just..."

 

2.  Many school administrators never receive training to deal with these issues

The minimum requirements for being a school administrator are a master's in educational leadership and a few years teaching.  In grad school, you take a class in school law, school finance, a few curriculum classes, a building capacity class, an organizational management class, a capstone class, and a practicum.  Many school administrators never receive training, formal or otherwise, in many things they are responsible for--including school safety.   For example, I had to design the school's traffic plan.  If an accident were to happen and it was at the fault of the traffic plan, I am liable.  I have zero training in traffic planning.

In a perfect world, principals have years of preparation and a clear career trajectory role (usually a teacher, then department head, then dean, then assistant principal, THEN principal--and even still, most principals have a mentor their first few years on the job).  For many hard to serve areas, many principals are right out of the classroom and are utterly overwhelmed and unprepared.  Turnover rates are incredibly high and are so impactful due to the resources required to properly train a principal.  I have been asked to mentor two new principals in my district because they said they were going to quit at the end of this year (neither have been assistant principals) if they don't get a mentor because they are overwhelmed.  Both of these principals have both been in education as teachers and instructional coaches for over 20 years. 

If you do get a nice, sleepy, easy going school, and aren't used to this level behaviors, you are neither trained or even conditioned to consider someone shooting up a school. Again, as shocked as people think his behavior's are...they aren't uncommon.  And neither are the parents.  Which brings me too....

 

3rd and most importantly...

People are shocked at this student's behavior, but this behavior is downright common.  Many principals and teachers deal with this on a daily basis.  Schools can't fire parents or students.  I have to work with every family that comes through that door.  Parents strung out on drugs in my parking lot, homeless, helicopter moms, dads sexually harassing staff...we have to deal with it all.  There isn't coursework for when your 1st grade teacher complains to you that a dad in the pick-up line says he wants to suck on her toes while hand feeding her trout in front of his 1st grade and third grade student...

 

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Our whole system is broken. Not unlike our law enforcement & justice systems. 

I'm more than positive that some time years and years ago there came a time where a choice had to be made, someone chose to protect money instead of people, and then things just grew from there. Now we have schools (police departments, courts, jails...) having to handle responsibilities they never should have been handed in the first place. At some time, there was probably a choice made to add new system or department or staff or program or whatever, and someone decided not to because of cost, and now everything is a shit show. 

I know that's intentionally vague. I'm sure this has happened dozens of times in the past each for different issues. We've all inherited a convoluted mess. Kinda like getting your grandparents Christmas decorations after they die - I mean sure, at some point they had a fantastic display of ornaments and outdoor decorations, but after decades of just...life...now their shit is in 20 boxes, half of it is broken or missing pieces, there are no complete sets and nothing matches or coordinates, the lights are tangled and only work if you use them in a certain order that nobody remembers anymore, the tree is more rust and dust than anything, and it's just a fucking mess that you now have to sift through because of memories or tradition and a complete unwillingness or inability to buy your own damn decorations. 

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20 hours ago, Cerina said:

Our whole system is broken. Not unlike our law enforcement & justice systems. 

I'm more than positive that some time years and years ago there came a time where a choice had to be made, someone chose to protect money instead of people, and then things just grew from there. Now we have schools (police departments, courts, jails...) having to handle responsibilities they never should have been handed in the first place. At some time, there was probably a choice made to add new system or department or staff or program or whatever, and someone decided not to because of cost, and now everything is a shit show. 

 

I feel like that was Sandy Hook. When the lives of children weren't even enough for laws to change, it says a lot about the people in charge. :(

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23 hours ago, Cerina said:

Our whole system is broken. Not unlike our law enforcement & justice systems. 

I'm more than positive that some time years and years ago there came a time where a choice had to be made, someone chose to protect money instead of people, and then things just grew from there. Now we have schools (police departments, courts, jails...) having to handle responsibilities they never should have been handed in the first place. At some time, there was probably a choice made to add new system or department or staff or program or whatever, and someone decided not to because of cost, and now everything is a shit show. 

I know that's intentionally vague. I'm sure this has happened dozens of times in the past each for different issues. We've all inherited a convoluted mess. Kinda like getting your grandparents Christmas decorations after they die - I mean sure, at some point they had a fantastic display of ornaments and outdoor decorations, but after decades of just...life...now their shit is in 20 boxes, half of it is broken or missing pieces, there are no complete sets and nothing matches or coordinates, the lights are tangled and only work if you use them in a certain order that nobody remembers anymore, the tree is more rust and dust than anything, and it's just a fucking mess that you now have to sift through because of memories or tradition and a complete unwillingness or inability to buy your own damn decorations. 

I don't know if broken is the right word.  Overwhelmed...for sure. 

I would even argue the American public education system is better now than it has ever been,  For example, we have made huge advancements in how we treat students in special education.  We are just barely 40-50 years from when people were characterized as retarded trainable and retarded untrainable. Now this seems fucked up...but at the time, it was downright progressive.  Many countries still don't have ANY special education.  

I think a positive way to look at it is that as a society, we are committed to equitably serving all students.  We do a really, really good job for the most part.  I know we are always getting bashed for out poor scores, but the reality is that we are the only country that assesses ALL students---homeless, special education, English language learners, etc AND we have more students from low social economic statuses that are tested which skews our data. When comparing apples to apples, we are one of the top performing countries with only a handful of countries outperforming us and the majority of those countries special education is decades behind us--like the #1 country Singapore.

I am not saying there isn't room to improve or you are wrong..because yes, we need funding to provide more mental health, improve school security, raise salaries, etc.  But to say it was once this great thing years ago (I would agree it was for affluent white males) and it has slowly eroded into a fucking mess is simply not true. 

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On 12/9/2021 at 1:54 PM, Hobbes said:

So to preface this post.  I am not saying anyone is wrong or I disagree with anyone, but the educational world is extraordinarily complex with no clear right or wrong answers.

School's legal obligation on how to handle these situations varies state to state.  In Colorado the student would either have to a.) go home or b.) stay segregated from the student population until the threat assessment is completed AND next steps are addressed.  This may not exist in Michigan.  If it doesn't, it likely will.  Public schools can search any locker at any time without reason.  A school most have reasonable cause to search a backpack or purse.  They certainly had it here.

 

Many times there is NOT a difference between a student with special needs acting out and death threats.  Death threats are frequently a manifestation of the disability.  And who is to say the student making death threats doesn't have an diagnosed mental disability? 

What's a threat?  A middle school student in an online chat room saying he is going to bomb the school?  A second grader posting a TikTok of him holding a gun saying he is going to kill his teacher the next day at school?  A high school student significantly impacted by autism yelling in an emotional burst in a self-contained classroom he is going to kill a teacher?  All of these are real examples I have dealt with.  All of these are threats...do you expel all these students?  The only student that would come out high on a threat assessment analysis is the second grader (specific time, location, target, and access to means).  If you do expel a student, then what?  For many of these students, school is the ONLY place they receive mental health support, structure, some level of safety, and a meal.  What does that look like to have an emotionally disturbed and/ or disabled teenager with no accountability, no support, and no one checking in?

 

Sooo...a few points starting with the Colorado policy I mentioned before...

1.  This policy is pretty common sense...right???  However, these threat assessments involve multiple staff members (primarily administration and mental health) that can take days.  The parent interview alone can take hours and requires at least two staff members to be present.  That is a full day that students whom have legally contracted services do not receive services (because we can also get sued for not meeting those minutes even if it is due to a lack of staffing).  One year a prior school I worked at had over 100 threat assessments!  So back to "why doesn't the school just..."

 

2.  Many school administrators never receive training to deal with these issues

The minimum requirements for being a school administrator are a master's in educational leadership and a few years teaching.  In grad school, you take a class in school law, school finance, a few curriculum classes, a building capacity class, an organizational management class, a capstone class, and a practicum.  Many school administrators never receive training, formal or otherwise, in many things they are responsible for--including school safety.   For example, I had to design the school's traffic plan.  If an accident were to happen and it was at the fault of the traffic plan, I am liable.  I have zero training in traffic planning.

In a perfect world, principals have years of preparation and a clear career trajectory role (usually a teacher, then department head, then dean, then assistant principal, THEN principal--and even still, most principals have a mentor their first few years on the job).  For many hard to serve areas, many principals are right out of the classroom and are utterly overwhelmed and unprepared.  Turnover rates are incredibly high and are so impactful due to the resources required to properly train a principal.  I have been asked to mentor two new principals in my district because they said they were going to quit at the end of this year (neither have been assistant principals) if they don't get a mentor because they are overwhelmed.  Both of these principals have both been in education as teachers and instructional coaches for over 20 years. 

If you do get a nice, sleepy, easy going school, and aren't used to this level behaviors, you are neither trained or even conditioned to consider someone shooting up a school. Again, as shocked as people think his behavior's are...they aren't uncommon.  And neither are the parents.  Which brings me too....

 

3rd and most importantly...

People are shocked at this student's behavior, but this behavior is downright common.  Many principals and teachers deal with this on a daily basis.  Schools can't fire parents or students.  I have to work with every family that comes through that door.  Parents strung out on drugs in my parking lot, homeless, helicopter moms, dads sexually harassing staff...we have to deal with it all.  There isn't coursework for when your 1st grade teacher complains to you that a dad in the pick-up line says he wants to suck on her toes while hand feeding her trout in front of his 1st grade and third grade student...

 

This is not being critical of anyone here, just that the points raised in Hobbes post raise points of my own.  I am going to accept Hobbes account as an expert opinion, given his experience. 

First off, threats credible or less than credible are simply some administrator's opinion of the likelihood of said threat being carried out.  Will a 2nd grader carry out a threat, probably not.  But by the time a kid is an adolescent,  they know (or should know) right from wrong.  I don't accept someone saying 15 year old looking up ammo and drawing dead people as simply acting out, but as a crime in of itself. And a crime needs to be addressed by the law. 

I think points 2 and three are what people find frustrating.  I know I do.  Given the responsibility (a large one to be sure) that admins have with taking care of kids, if it is true that many if not most are unqualified because either lack of training or experience, that right there is a failure in the system.  If point 3 is true and death threats (or threats of harm) have become so common as to be routine, then school districts are failing to meet that challenge.  Simply accepting that kids threaten others as a daily occurrence is outrageous.  I know schools are underfunded, but I also know (at least in AZ) what principals and superintendents make, and to claim they just don't have the resources makes me feel it is a cop out.  

My position may be harsh, but so are school shootings.  I think to hell with kids who do that, especially the ones who act on threats to hurt or kill others.  Once a credible threat is made, they need to be taken out of school and the threat needs to be taken as serious and one that the kid intends to carry out.  Is that zero tolerance and unfair to the kids who are making a misguided cry for help?  Probably.  Will they lack resources if removed from school? Sure.  But education in this country is treated as all kids are entitled. I think it ought to be treated more as a privilege.  If a kid threatens someone, get rid of them.  Safety demands it.   They should be the problem of the parents, and if that means expulsion prevents said threatening kid from going to another school, then the parents need to homeschool that kid.  If the parents can't or won't handle the situation, then take the kid out of that home and let the system deal with them.  
 

Given more shootings occur now than any other point in history, something different needs to be done.  Business as usual and hiding behind lack of funding or training simply is not enough anymore. 

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As a whole I think kids and people in school represent a kind of micro world of the real world. There's a lot of messed up kids, people who work taking care of those kids (most of the time have the best interests of the child at hand), and a list of rules that they have to follow. We just haven't learned basic kindergarten concepts where we take care of people and share and manage our feelings appropriately. If you want to live in a civil society schools are the reflection of those societies. It's just kinda scary. 

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Is there an increase in threats this year or just more attention to it? There was a threat on social media for the local high school today, they were able to figure it out pretty fast. But it feels like there has been an increase this school year, at least in this area. Shoot, even just this past week feels crazy, because there's been at least one a day at local Seattle schools. I've read and heard from school administration that there is a rise in behavior issues this year. Are kids just losing their shit because of COVID or are we just getting a bunch of copy cats hoping for a day off?

Edit: ok not my imagination. This article did not include today's threat. https://lynnwoodtimes.com/2021/12/10/localar-school-threats/

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I think it's the climate. People are acting out because during lock downs in the pandemic I believe people have changed their behavior and don't know how to act in public or around people. Like adults having full on temper tantrums or something. We were talking about that yesterday in the teachers lounge the other day. Parents are different in that they'll say stuff out loud at meetings because they forget mute or something while kids are quieter and more introverted and take more to get to come out and say stuff or answer a question at school. With the last presidents way of bombasting things and in general being obnoxious and what happened concerning like protests and BLM movements there's like a reactionary culture of being just as loud and in your face and aggressiveness we've never had before from adults.

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