kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/9/12 - 12/16/12

Saturday, December 15, 2012

from the Secret Service report - "signaling the attack"

I'm not sure whether this passage is apropros to the Newtown murders since the killer was an adult. Have just begun to look at it.

I find the first paragraphs astonishing.
Signaling the Attack

Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack.

In most cases, other people knew about the attack before it took place. In over three-quarters of the incidents, at least one person had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning the school attack (81 percent, n=30). In nearly two thirds of the incidents, more than one person had information about the attack before it occurred (59 percent, n=22). In nearly all of these cases, the person who knew was a peer–a friend, schoolmate, or sibling (93 percent, n=28/30). Some peers knew exactly what the attacker planned to do; others knew something "big" or "bad" was going to happen, and in several cases knew the time and date it was to occur. An adult had information about the idea or plan in only two cases.

In one incident, for example, the attacker had planned to shoot students in the lobby of his school prior to the beginning of the school day. He told two friends exactly what he had planned and asked three others to meet him that morning in the mezzanine overlooking the lobby, ostensibly so that these students would be out of harm’s way. On most mornings, usually only a few students would congregate on the mezzanine before the school day began. However, by the time the attacker arrived at school on the morning of the attack, word about what was going to happen had spread to such an extent that 24 students were on the mezzanine waiting for the attack to begin. One student who knew the attack was to occur brought a camera so that he could take pictures of the event.

Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack.

The majority of the attackers in the targeted school violence incidents examined under the Safe School Initiative did not threaten their target(s) directly, i.e., did not tell the target they intended to harm them, whether in direct, indirect, or conditional language prior to the attack. Only one-sixth of the attackers threatened their target(s) directly prior to the attack (17 percent, n=7).

Most attackers engaged in some behavior, prior to the incident, that caused others concern or indicated a need for help.

Almost all of the attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the attack that caused others–school officials, parents, teachers, police, fellow students–to be concerned (93 percent, n=38). In most of the cases, at least one adult was concerned by the attacker’s behavior (88 percent, n=36). In three-quarters of the cases, at least three people–adults and other children–were concerned by the attacker’s behavior (76 percent, n=31). In one case, for example, the attacker made comments to at least 24 friends and classmates about his interest in killing other kids, building bombs, or carrying out an attack at the school. A school counselor was so concerned about this student’s behavior that the counselor asked to contact the attacker’s parents. The attacker’s parents also knew of his interest in guns.

The behaviors that led other individuals to be concerned about the attacker included both behaviors specifically related to the attack, such as efforts to get a gun, as well as other disturbing behaviors not related to the subsequent attack. In one case, the student’s English teacher became concerned about several poems and essays that the student submitted for class assignments because they treated the themes of homicide and suicide as possible solutions to his feelings of despair. In another case, the student worried his friends by talking frequently about plans to put rat poison in the cheese shakers at a popular pizza establishment. A friend of that student became so concerned that the student was going to carry out the rat poison plan, that the friend got out of bed late one night and left his house in search of his mother, who was not home at the time, to ask her what to do.

The Final Report and Findings of the Safe Schools Initiative

from 2000 - "Rampage Killers" - & Secret Service report on school killings

I think this is probably the Secret Service report discussed in the TIME article:

from 2000:
An examination by The New York Times of 100 rampage murders found that most of the killers spiraled down a long slow slide, mentally and emotionally. Most of them left a road map of red flags, spending months plotting their attacks and accumulating weapons, talking openly of their plans for bloodshed. Many showed signs of serious mental health problems.

But in case after case, the Times review found, the warning signs were missed: by a tattered mental health care system; by families unable to face the evidence of serious mental turmoil in their children or siblings; by employers, teachers and principals who failed to take the threats seriously; by the police who, when alerted to the danger by frightened relatives, neighbors or friends, were incapable of intervening before the violence erupted.


In 34 of the 100 cases, however, families or friends of the killers desperately did try to find help for a person they feared was a ticking time bomb, but were rebuffed by the police, school administrators or mental health workers.

Sylvia Seegrist caromed in and out of mental institutions 12 times in 10 years, while her parents searched for a residential program where she could stay in treatment. They knew she was dangerous. She had stabbed a psychologist and tried to strangle her mother, and had hidden a gun in her apartment. But each time, she was released from the hospital when she seemed to improve.

"We were always fearful that maybe some tragedy would happen," said Ruth S. Seegrist, Sylvia's mother. "She threatened it: 'Someday before I kill myself, I'll bring some people down with me.' " Sylvia opened fire in a suburban Philadelphia shopping mall in 1985, killing three people and wounding seven.

The Well-Marked Roads to Homicidal Rage
Sylvia Seegrist's letter
and from TIME last summer:
[T]he Holmes case raises a crucial question: Is there a way to identify and stop mass killers before they unleash themselves?

.... After Columbine, the Secret Service and the FBI undertook months-long projects that were designed to create methods to spot mass killers before they act. The Secret Service study, the more influential one, looked at 41 attackers in 37 school massacres. The data showed that mass shooters don't usually act impulsively and rarely make threats against enemies. But they do tend to have experience with firearms.

In short, mass murderers are a vexing and diverse lot. For instance, the typical mass killer said nothing suspicious to friends or family members but signaled his intent to third parties--especially, in the cases of the kids who shot up their schools, classmates they liked. On July 25, a report emerged, citing a law-enforcement source, that Holmes had taken the time to send a troubling package to a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado at Denver, where Holmes worked. He apparently sent drawings of his intended massacre.

In 2004 the journal Behavioral Sciences & the Law published an authoritative paper by a team of psychologists led by Reid Meloy, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. For the past decade, Meloy has been a consultant for the FBI's counterintelligence division.

In the paper, Meloy and his colleagues offered both sociological traits and behavioral clues that are associated with mass violence. Some of the factors they identified: A criminal history. The No. 1 predictor of violent crime is previous violent behavior. (For his part, Holmes had only a speeding ticket.)

A sense of victimization.

Most adolescents who shoot up their schools say they were bullied. Most adult mass murderers say girlfriends or relatives had recently rejected them or that they had been persecuted at work.

An age in the 20s.

According to the Meloy paper, the average age of mass killers is 27. (Holmes is 24.)

Other factors come up as well--for instance, preoccupation with fantasy is a common feature of mass killers, and Holmes is reported to have played video games ad libitum. But none of these facets can distinguish a burnout from a psychopath....

Preventing Mass Murder
By John Cloud | Monday, Aug. 06, 2012

lockdown - from the Comments - and an experience on my campus

from the Comments:
Crimson Wife said...
When my DH was in the Army, the S.O.P. was to do a lockdown of the unit whenever sensitive materials (usually weapons or night-vision goggles) were unaccounted for. No one was allowed in or out but while there were armed military police guarding the exits, I'm 99% sure that those inside were not physically locked in.

FormerCTMom said...
Lockdown is what may have saved lives in that school. It means that the teachers shove their kids into the safest possible space in the room and LOCK the door. This keeps the killer out of the room. The reason that the toll was so high at VA Tech was because they didn't have a lockdown, and the gunman visited classroom after classroom.


A quote from coverage of the shooting
"Music teacher Maryrose Kristopik was hailed as a hero for barricading 15 children in one closet, where they could hear the bloodthirsty Lanza screaming, “Let me in!”"
This is how a lockdown can save lives

lgm said...
The timing on this incident meant that many students were likely traveling between their classroom and the office bringing down attendance and lunch reports, as well as visiting the library for SSR material. Going in to hard lockdown meant that each child was immediately placed under direct adult supervision and moved to the safest position in the room possible - staff checks the hallway, pulls in any nearby person, and locks the door. Any unlocked windows are locked. The corridors are clear. Anyone that was outdoors will be moved to the designated safe location, which is not necessarily the school bldg. Doors and windows are locked.

A soft lockdown is also used in certain situations. Students with urgent needs can use the bathroom w/supervision if they are not in the affected zone, but everyone else stays in position and the classroom learning proceeds. Outdoor activities are cancelled.Doors and windows are locked.

People can still exit the bldg, by unlocking the windows, just as they would if the fire alarm was pulled in the winter, but the situation will tell if that is in their best interests.

It seems clear to me that our mental health system needs revamping.


To answer your original question -- a hospital lockdown means that perimeter is secured and visitor access is restricted or screened more than usual. The police are involved.

palisadesk said...
We have two types of lockdown, depending on whether the perceived threat is external or internal. They have different names (which escape me at the moment), but we have drills for both and the rationale is calmly explained to students.

When the threat is external -- usually, a police action somewhere in the vicinity -- all entrances to the building are locked, external windows are locked and shades drawn, and first-floor classrooms with windows fronting on the exterior of the building are required to have lights turned off and students moved away from the windows as a precaution. Learning activities can continue, although sometimes what the students are doing is affected by the lights being turned off. I was in one classroom where the teacher switched from guided reading activities to choral music during this lockdown. Doors to the classrooms were not locked, and students could use the rest rooms under supervision -- administrators and support personnel patrolled the halls to ensure students could be hustled to safety should the situation escalate.

When the threat is inside the building (I was in the computer lab during one such incident), teachers are asked to lock their doors if possible - many classroom doors cannot be locked from the inside however, and teachers using resource rooms, conference rooms or offices may not have keys to those rooms - but students or staff were not to leave the rooms for any reason until an all-clear was announced. One of my students wanted to use the restroom but I had to tell her NO. In our case it was a middle school student having a major meltdown in the hall and armed with a baseball bat or hockey stick threatening mayhem. After leading several burly staff on a merry chase he fled the building and was apprehended in the parking lot. Mental health issues were involved.

I did not have keys to the computer lab however, so had an armed intruder been involved I would have had no way of locking the door. In my experience, which is limited in these matters, the lockdowns have all been brief and care taken to keep the staff and students informed in a calm and matter-of-fact way.
We have no lockdown procedures on my campus that I'm aware of. Last week I drove to school and  noticed while parking that multiple police cars were roaring onto campus with sirens blaring. No one had any idea what was going on, and students were walking calmly along to class as they normally do, so I did the same, all the while thinking to myself: I don't have to be here. I could get back in my car and drive home. 

That line of thinking competed with my second line of thinking, which had to do with the size of the campus: quite large from one end to the other. Because all the police cars were headed to the other side, opposite from me (and my car), I found myself thinking: Is whatever is happening going to stay there and not come here?

Which instantly made me feel guilty because if there was something bad happening there, I was now actively hoping that it would continue happening there, not here, where I was.

The whole thing was crazy.

Finally, after I'd arrived at my classroom (which may or may not have locks on the doors, I don't know) and was now too far from my car to return to it quickly, a student outside the room told me there was smoke coming from a building at the other side of the campus, and that's why the police had come.

Friday, December 14, 2012

school security - just a question

I'm reading that the Newtown hospital is on lockdown -- what is lockdown, exactly?

My school district (which I'm assuming is similar to Newtown) began regular lockdown drills years ago, I think because the then-new superintendent was focused on security.

Does a lockdown mean no one can get out? Are people locked in as well as locked out?

How does it work?

in Newtown

I was about to write a post about grammar when the news came in.

Writing about grammar at this moment feels wrong.

The pain these families are in.

Monday, December 10, 2012

changing "what and how teachers deliver particular instruction"

Monday, 12/10 - Workshop for Parents on the Common Core Learning Standards - 7:00-8:00 pm; Alexander Hamilton HS Auditorium, 98 S. Goodwin Avenue, Elmsford, NY. You have heard much about the many changes to the landscape of NY public education. Many of them are rooted in the newly adopted Common Core Learning Standards which will change what and how teachers deliver particular instruction. If you are interested in learning more about this shift in curricula, you may be interested in attending this workshop entitled Introduction to the Common Core Learning Standards for Parents which is sponsored by Southern Westchester BOCES. Click here for more information.
As far as I'm concerned, the Common Core standards have been well and truly hijacked.