Expert says schools are not prepared
October 3, 2012
CRANBERRY TWP — There is at least one child in every school who has thought about bringing a gun to school, a fact that should keep administrators on their toes. That is an observation of Dave Grossman, a West Point Military Academy psychology professor who wrote a book on violence in America. He also said that most schools are grossly unprepared to deal with potential tragedies. Grossman was one of the speakers at a daylong seminar Friday at the Regional Learning Alliance that focused on violence in schools. Grossman told the crowd that he was on the scene shortly after the massacres in Columbine, Colo., in 1999 and at Virginia Tech in 2007. His hometown is Jonesboro, Ark., which was rocked by a school shooting only a year before Columbine. His young son was a student in the school in which the shooting took place. Grossman said he has a solution to school violence. Schools should train for violence like they train for fire safety. He said that fires have killed no students in the past 50 years in North America, while 48 students were killed by school violence in 1998. That number jumped to 63 students killed in 2007 alone. That’s because from a young age students are conditioned to follow protocol like fire drills and a myriad of other safety procedures, but are rarely taught how to respond to school shootings. “We must prepare for violence like firefighters prepare for fires,” Grossman said. “Anything else is negligent.” Tragedies like Columbine and Jonesboro could have been prevented if only a fraction of the money spent on fire training was diverted to violence training and protocol, according to Grossman. But that hasn’t happened, he said, because most school administrators don’t realize that danger could be right on their doorstep. “Our children are more likely to be killed by violence in school than every other cause of death combined,” Grossman said. He blamed the increase in violence on children being desensitized every day by violent movies, television shows and video games that reward killing. The solution, he said, is to put an armed police officer in every school in America to deter violence. After all, he said, there isn’t one documented case of a multiple homicide in schools when an armed guard is present. “The single best thing you can do is have someone who can shoot back,” he said. “The best achievement is the crime that never happened.” Another integral option is mandated lockdown drills that teach students and teachers how to react if a gunman is on the loose. Matt McKinley, Seneca Valley assistant superintendent, listened intently to the speaker. During a break, he said training sessions like Grossman’s are key to keeping schools safe. “We need to be as prepared as we can be,” he said. “There needs to be more awareness about violence in schools and, unfortunately, sometimes people get complacent. Something like this really heightens awareness and brings the issue to the forefront.” McKinley sat next to Lt. Kevin Meyer of the Cranberry Township Police Department, who arranged for the speaker to come here. Meyer said he heard Grossman speak and knew that his expertise and suggestions could be used here. “We wanted us and Seneca Valley on the same page in terms of responding to this kind of situation, if, God forbid, we ever have to,” he said. The seminar was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice.