kitchen table math, the sequel: help desk

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

help desk

How many bomb threats is too many?

I many bomb threats do middle schools usually have?

We've just had our 4th or 5th of the school year.

Is that a lot?

Apparently some of the teachers think it is.

I have no idea.


Forty-two said...

Based on my experience, I'd say yes, that is more than normal. There were none while I was in middle school (92-95), and only one when I was in high school (95-99), which was freshman year. According to the upperclassmen of the time, bomb threats were supposed to be an annual event, but that didn't pan out for my class. Four or five a year, let alone by this point in the year, seems excessive.

Catherine Johnson said...

According to the upperclassmen of the time, bomb threats were supposed to be an annual event, but that didn't pan out for my class.

That's what Ed thought....his school used to have one a year, exactly as you say. It was an "annual event."

One of the teachers has indicated that her teacher friends think this is out of line.

We do have two schools on the same campus. The middle school is attached to the high school.

This week's bomb threat came from the high school, not the middle school.

Still, we'd had at least 3 bomb threats in the middle school by Christmas, possibly 4.

I'm losing count.

Catherine Johnson said...

Why would this be happening?

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Catherine Johnson said...

The kids all had to do a character-ed handout on bomb threats last night:

"We've had a number of bom threats...We would like you to use the Problem Solving Steps from our character education problem, Social Decision Making and Problem Solving, to find a solution to this ongoing problem.

1. Define what the problem is.

2. How does this problem make you feel?

3. Decide on your goal.

4. Stop and think of as many solutions to the problem as you can."


They handed this out after yelling at the kids and threatening to take away their last remaining privileges.

Christopher came home mad, saying he wasn't going to do the character ed form.

I told him to define the problem as collective punishment and lack of respect for students as individuals.

So he did.

Catherine Johnson said...

Christian, whose instincts are always good, thinks 4 or 5 -- whatever it is -- is way too high.

(And he went to school in Yonkers.)

He says that once you're up to 4 or 5 you need to get outside help, outside help meaning a consultant who knows how to deal with the situation.

Catherine Johnson said...

I tend to think that the school culture is an issue.

The place is in lockdown; a friend said the security is far higher than what she sees in govt buildings and that the atmosphere has had a very negative effect on her son, who spends a lot of time feeling like a suspect.

I would get rid of all the character ed, all the slogans, all the posters about violence against women and celebrities with "a parent who drank or drugged too much" etc....and focus on achievement.

I'd get kids achieving and I'd celebrate their achievements.

Catherine Johnson said...

I have no idea whether that would help.

But at least the school would have a positive focus on kids doing things well.

Tex said...

Have these bomb threats been reported in the local papers or TV?

I just checked The Journal News and found John Jay MS had a bomb threat this week, but no mention of Irvington.

IIRC, we’ve had none this year. In past years, one or two per year was the most. And, it usually was reported at least in the local papers.

Has the administration gone through the Character Ed exercise? Maybe it’s time to take away some privileges from them.

Rudbeckia Hirta said...

If you've never had a bomb threat before, then ONE is way too many. The first bomb threat teaches the students what a bomb threat is and what they get out of it (not having to endure class).

At that point, this becomes an "expected value" problem.

Counting against a bomb threat is:

probability of getting caught * punishment imposed

If the student thinks that either of those is close to zero, then there isn't much dis-incentive.

This is balanced against the student's perception of the "good" to be gained from the bomb threat -- typically not having to endure class (although sometimes avoiding an awkward inter-personal situation with either a peer or a teacher) or possibly impressing the other kids (or irritating the administration / The Man).

If the "good" outweigths the "bad", you are going to see a bomb threat epidemic.

This ties in with several of Catherine's core ideas. The Bayesian probability (as the idea spreads) and the idea of ineffective instruction frustrating the students. When I'm told about a class where students are "acting out," it's pretty frequently their way of giving informal feedback about the class; they're expressing frustration. Inattentive behaviors (both "acting out" and doodling / reading something else / etc) are a symptom that the student is either bored with the material (class too slow, too easy) or else totally frustrated (not learning).

Anonymous said...

I've had about 4 years of middle school experience so far and I believe there hasn't been any bomb threats.

However, I remember when I was in college (small, private) back in the late 70's we seemed to have a few a year. My guess was that neighboring college co-eds thought it would be funny to cause us to empty our dorms at 2 in the morning.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember any bomb threats at the schools I attended (1970-1982). I think I remember that there may have been one at another school in our county school district, but maybe I'm misremembering.

On the other hand, nine years ago, when the company I worked for was in the process of being acquired by a much-loathed rival (Computer Associates), our building had four bomb threats in one month.

Although we had never had a bomb threat before and didn't have any after that month, they may have been coincidence, because ours was merely a satellite office halfway across the country from the CA HQ, and there were other large tenants in our building.

Catherine Johnson said...

I don't know whether the bomb threats are being reported in the newspapers. I should check.

We're up to either 4 or 5 now, and the kids are being harangued about how they have too many freedoms, etc.

In fact they have so few freedoms that one student wrote a petition about lack of freedom that kids all over the school signed.

This week they all had to fill out a character ed "social decision making form" on bomb threats. Parents had to sign.

It was appalling