kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/16/12 - 12/23/12

Saturday, December 22, 2012

deaf college students and sentences

Another piece of the puzzle.

Deaf students have trouble with relative clauses, too. (Deaf students have trouble with other sentence structures, but relative clauses are one of the most challenging. Will post the list in order later.)

Arthur Whimbey's zoonoses test.

Christmas to New Year's sale on Edisongauss math app!

I asked Allan to write something I could post about his new math app, and here it is:
Greetings Catherine,

Please let your readers know our Blackboard Math Android app will be on sale for 50%-off from Christmas to New Year's. Our goal is to make a big splash on downloads and get the word out to folks that might have a child, grandchild, niece or nephew getting a new tablet this Christmas and wanting to put something more worthwhile on it than the usual fare of games and movies.

So far, it's received a nice reception that's made us feel pretty proud, which is important because at this point it's still more a labor of love than an income replacement--though if we continue to get the positive response we've gotten over the two weeks since it went live, the income replacement might come sooner than later.

I have two stories that I think show it is hitting the mark with people. The first story is from last week when I sent a note to the email list for the parents of my son's 3rd grade class. I said if they were looking for something to keep their children's math skills honed over the long Christmas break to check out the app I'd just finished and was feeling somewhat proud of. The next day, it so happened I was volunteering in my son's classroom for a Christmas cookie baking the kids were doing. (I only get a chance to volunteer once or twice a year, so this was very coincidental.) After the teacher finished formally introducing me and the two other parent-helpers to a class of 26 8 & 9 y.o.'s, a boy that I randomly happened to be standing behind turns around and in a loud stage-whisper says, "I love your program." I joked with my wife that now I know why so many people put up with the lousy pay to be teachers. The other cool story is from one of the other partners at the company. His wife was visiting with a friend with two kids that went from elementary to middle school this year and were having a tough time with the transition on account of their multiplication and division skills. His wife pulled out her phone and walked through the app. The other woman lights up with enthusiasm and says that she has a kindle at home and is going to load it on there that evening for her kids. Without any provocation she adds, "This is exactly what I need."

As a rough introduction to the app, I'll say it doesn't do anything parents couldn't do themselves with pencil and paper. However, because it is on an electronic gizmo, kids seem to engage with it more readily than pencil and paper. Also, for those whose households are anything like ours, its biggest benefit might be that you don't have to run around trying to find a clean piece of paper before anyone can do any math practice. Not having to come up with a bunch of numbers for problems is nice too, as is automatic grading. It has a few more benefits, but this might be getting long so I'll leave the rest for our web page. The web page also has direct links to the app markets to download it.

Blackboard Math 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas & Chanukkah books: late edition

Getting to this way too late----

The Statue of Liberty: A Translatlantic Story by Edward Berenson - near and dear

Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate - Debbie Stier says this is the one, and I believe her. My copy came yesterday. Here are Gordon Neufeld's courses.

Beat This! by Ann Hodgman - it's been updated!

Norton Annotated Christmas Carol - fabulous!

Norton Annotated Brothers Grimm - fabulous!

Norton Annotated Anything - fabulous no doubt!

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman - getting it for Christmas

The Bible and Its Influence - Wonderful, worked extremely well in my class. Here's an excerpt on the Book of Genesis, which pairs beautifully with this excerpt from a Paula Reimer article about the Greek gods.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version - this is the edition my pastor told me to get. I'm on page  547.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - boring but indispensable

The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel - yesssssss! Plan to re-read soon. (Here's an old post on projects & procrastination & Piers Steel.)

1491 and 1493 by Charles C. Mann - haven't read either book, but Ed says they're great

A Short History of England by Simon Jenkins - our friend Herb is reading it twice

Bloomberg Best Books of 2012

The Great Recession: Market Failure or Monetary Disorder? by Robert Hetzel - wonderful, and reasonably readable by nonspecialists

Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield - one of the funniest books I've ever read

The Secret Diary of Adrien Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend - the other funniest book I've ever read

Nobody wants grammar books for Christmas, so that list can wait.


On the other hand, if you're homeschooling or teaching, and really do need a grammar book for Christmas, then Grammar for Teachers by John Seely is a highly compressed, clear, and useful distillation of Quirk and Greenbaum. There's a Workbook, too, and sample pages posted on Seely's website. Any decoder of English grammar who characterizes adverbs as awkward customers is A-OK with me.

Also, I recently finished reading Greenbaum and Nelson's An Introduction to English Grammar and liked it very much; the short chapter on style is excellent. However, if you're as new to formal grammar as I was, and you want a companion book to Seely's, I think Mark Lester's English Grammar and Usage Second Edition might be the choice. I've just discovered it myself, and haven't read it yet, but I've moved it up to the top of my list, bumping Huddleston and Pullum to number 2. Lester is a specialist in ESL, which means the book is keenly aware of the particular confusions and mistakes non-native speakers make.

Thank God for non-native speakers. The rest of us can free-ride on their books and classes.

Lester provides numerous "constituent tests," too. I like constituent tests.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

when things changed (vocabulary edition)

in the Wall Street Journal:
In the late 1970s I taught English grammar and literature in the 7th grade. I used the same literature book that my two daughters had used when they were students in the school only two years before. It included portions of books, single stories and poems written by authors including Carl Sandburg, Isaac Asimov, Mark Twain, Harper Lee, Ernest Hemingway and Anne Frank. The themes were real life—loneliness, poverty, joy, broken homes, shame, pity. The first paragraph from one story included the words infatuated, distraction, periodicals and metaphorically speaking.

The next year the school was integrated with students bused in from downtown Columbus. These literature books were put in storage and replaced with short-story books about animals with human characteristics. Animals were used so that there were no blatant stereotypes of human beings, no hint of direct bias toward a group or idea.

I retrieved the former books, so sorry was I that these students could not also get lost in their incredible prose. But it was to no avail—so many words were unfamiliar to the students that there was no meaning to the sentences. OK, I tried reading the stories to the class. That lasted about a week. A whole class time could easily be used in delving into the background of one word to get the meaning.

And we wonder why students suffer from vocabulary inequality?

Lois Moor
Columbus, Ohio
Remember this?
Back in 1977, having watched SAT scores fall for 15 years, the College Board, which developed and administers the SAT, engaged a panel to try to identify the underlying causes of the decline. A first hypothesis to be checked was whether the test had somehow become more demanding. But, no, to the contrary, indications were that scoring had become more lenient. A second prominent hypothesis was that the decline was due to changes in the demographics of the test takers. Analyses shows this hypothesis to be largely correct, but only for a brief while. Over the early 1960s, changes in the composition of the tested population accounted for as much as three-quarters of the test score decline—and, no wonder, for during this period the number of students taking the SAT tripled. Over the 1970s, however, though the test-taking population stabilized, the scores did not. Instead, the decline continued, even steeper than before, while the extent to which it could be ascribed to demographic shifts shrank to 30 percent at most. Furthermore, the scores that dropped most were those of the strongest students, the students in the top 10 percent of their class; the scores of students toward the bottom of the distribution held steady or even increased.

Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts
by Marilyn Jager Adams
American Educator | Winter 2010 - 2011
stop the multiverse, I want to get off

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I need to come up with something cheerful for Christmas/Chanukkah, so...

Working on it.

Since I have nothing cheerful to say at the moment, I'm going to take advantage of the fact that I am sitting in front of my computer in a state of complete and total derailment.

Making now a good time to complain about Apple.

Here is my complaint.

What is going on with Apple?


My iPad 2, one year old, is broken. Not broken, glitchy. Soon to be brokenThe screen goes yellow at random times, and the music app turns itself on and reads The Odyssey out loud or plays one of the Celtic women singing in Welsh (which is embarrassing when it happens in public -- the Celtic women singing in Welsh, not The Odyssey). Recently, when I tried to transfer the photos I'd taken on my iPad to my iMac, iPhoto didn't recognize iPad and didn't sync. Then after a while iPhoto did recognize iPad and did commence syncing, but a message popped up saying it would take at least 3 hours to transfer all the photos. (Three hours?) I didn't have 3 hours, so I had to press Cancel.

I'm sure more surprises are on the way.

The Genius bar guy says the first step, before they sell me a refurbished iPad 2 for $250 (since my iPad just went out of warranty), is to reinstall the operating system.

But since reinstalling the operating system will wipe out all the "data" on my iPad, I need to back it up first, but, of course, backing up my iPad is a quasi-no go because my iPad is broken or breaking.

Also, and this is another whole level of woe: when I do manage to connect my iPad to my iMac, I can't tell whether my iPad is or is not backed up because I don't know where Apple puts my data.

Where are my photos & screen grabs?

Where do they go if and when they do get backed up?

I remember a time when I didn't have to wonder about these things. If I synced my camera to iPhoto, it was obvious where the photos went. They went directly to iPhoto, one by one; I could see each one as it transferred, plain as day.

Now the transfer process is mystifying. There's "Photo Stream" (what's that?) and Cloud (do I have a special iPhoto address in the Cloud where I can go and find all my stuff?) and "Last 12 Months" (where is Last 13 Months?).

Some of these entities seem to have the same photos in them as the other entities, but then again maybe not.

Also, in addition to Photo Stream, Cloud, and Last 12 Months, my iMac seems to put downloaded, synced photos into a folder called "Camera Uploads," which has no discernible relationship to iPhoto.

And: there are at least two different "Camera Uploads" folders on my iMac, not just one.

Some photos go to one Camera Uploads folder, other photos go to the other Camera Uploads folder. I don't know why. The upshot of having at least 5 different places downloaded photos can go is that I can't figure out any simple way to check whether all the photos I'm trying to download have actually been downloaded and put some place where I can find them.

So I don't know whether it's OK to go ahead and reinstall the operating system and lose all the data on my iPad.


My iPhone 4, also one year old, also just out of warranty, is dead.

It is dead because yesterday my neighbor came over to help me finally install the meditation tape she gave me lo these many months ago (which I obviously, desperately need, unless Katharine's source is right, and I'm taking my life in my hands wading into the meditation thing) and things went awry.

I needed help installing the meditation tape because I have never been able to install any software updates on my iPhone (there've been a gazillion software updates in just one year, it seems). I have never been able to install any software updates because I have too much data on my iPhone.

My neighbor was able to ascertain that the too-much-data I have on my iPhone consists primarily of iTunes songs, which was annoying because I have never, ever, not once, listened to an iTunes song on my iPhone (I use my old Shuffle, or did before all this started). Also I didn't even know the songs were on my iPhone, but there you are.

So we started trying to move songs off the iPhone and onto the iMac to clear up space for the software updates, and when we did that we encountered the same difficulty I always encounter when I attempt the Transfer of the Meditation Tape: Apple tells me one of my devices isn't allowed to hold the tunes (all of which I purchased directly from the iTunes store myself, with my credit card, with my name on it, but never mind) and tells me I have to authorize one or the other of the devices now or Apple won't let me proceed, at which point I always lose my nerve. Which device am I supposed to authorize? Which one has the most songs? I don't know, and I don't know how long it will take me to find out, either.

So I always press Cancel at this point. My neighbor, however, was determined, and she persisted....and, sure enough, we discovered in short order that tunes were getting erased, not synced or transferred.

The first one to go was '8 Mile' by eminem. Fine. I can live without eminem in my life.

But the next recording in line for obliteration was "Beer for My Horses," and that gave me pause. I like "Beer for My Horses." I plan to listen to "Beer for My Horses" one day again, possibly after I've switched to Windows; I don't want to delete "Beer for My Horses" from whatever device it's on now; and I don't want to re-purchase "Beer for My Horses," either, seeing as how I've already paid for it once.

So then my neighbor tried something else and at some point, as we tried not to erase all of my iTunes songs, we learned that my iTunes songs and my iTunes account are connected to a Verizon email address I don't recall ever having, although I did have the foresight to write down the password. Unfortunately, Apple no longer recognizes the password, and neither does Verizon.

(That was today's undertaking: a Service Chat with Gema, I think it was, at Verizon. Two service chats, actually. A few short hours later, Gema and I learned that in fact I do not have an email account for, but I did have one once.)

update 12/20/2012: Apple does not recognize my birth date, either, not even when I put in the month and the day without the year as the Genius bar guy said to try.

Anyway, my neighbor and I ascertained the presence of a Mystery Email Address in my iTunes account, and at that point, for some reason, my iPhone stopped having an operating system and refused to "Restore" the operating system when my neighbor tried to restore it.

That wasn't the end of it, either.

After the operating system Failed to Restore twice in a row, the Apple ghost in the machine said the iMac might be broken (no doubt) and advised us to go find a "Known-Good Computer" and try again.

So my neighbor took my iPhone to her house to plug it into her Known-Good Computer while I called Katharine & got the low-down on my possible future Depression from unmonitored meditation.


This afternoon I called Apple about my phone.

Getting the operating system put back on my phone will run me $150 plus postage.

Also, it took the Apple person at least 10 minutes to figure out where the Apple store in Ridge Hill is.

I finally had to look it up on the web and give her the address.

Then she told me the Ridge Hill store isn't "Authorized" (or something) and I spent another five minutes trying to find out what, exactly, was or was not "Authorized" about Ridge Hill and why it mattered.

The answer turned out to be that when an Apple store is only somewhat authorized, meaning it's an "authorized dealer" or some such but not a real Apple store run by Apple (the Apple store in Grand Central is real, in case you're wondering), then the Apple person on the phone can't make an appointment at the Genius bar for you.

You have to call them yourself.


Trying to salvage some part of my day, I asked the Apple person, while I had her on the line, if she could fix the situation.

She sent me to Apple ID, where I was supposed to find listed as an alternative email I could then delete, but it wasn't there, so I asked whether she could look into it, and at that very moment the Apple ID page crashed. An email came through to the Apple people telling them so.

The Apple person asked if I wanted to try again in a few hours.

I said sure.


My laptop locks up alllllll the time.

"other students were involved"

Here's the other passage from the Secret Service report that blew me away:
In many cases, other students were involved in the attack in some capacity.

Although most attackers carried out their attacks on their own, many attackers were influenced or encouraged by others to engage in the attacks. Nearly half of the attackers were influenced by other individuals in deciding to mount an attack, dared or encouraged by others to attack, or both (44 percent; n=18). For example, one attacker’s original idea had been to bring a gun to school and let other students see him with it. He wanted to look tough so that the students who had been harassing him would leave him alone. When he shared this idea with two friends, however, they convinced him that exhibiting the gun would not be sufficient and that he would have to shoot at people at the school in order to get the other students to leave him alone. It was after this conversation that this student decided to mount his school attack.

In other cases, friends assisted the attacker in his efforts to acquire a weapon or ammunition, discussed tactics for getting a weapon into school undetected, or helped gather information about the whereabouts of a target at a particular time during the school day.

only in suburban and rural schools

I came across this factoid last night:
School rampage shootings are rare events that have occurred in middle-class and affluent rural and suburban schools, but they are not found in inner-city schools.
Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
This finding has nothing to do with the mistaken belief that mass murderers are white, by the way. Mass murderers come from all races, and the people who attacked schools between 1974 and 1999 were 75% white.

I've just barely skimmed the section of Deadly Lessons that discusses the absence of mass shootings in inner-city schools, so I'm not sure how they explain this (if they do). It sounds to me as if they offer a hypothesis that the social organization of students may explain the difference -- and that the social organization is 'naturally' different in rural/suburban schools versus inner-city schools in a way that may not be easy to counter.

It's also the case that people with incomes below $30K a year have the lowest rate of gun ownership: 30% of homes as opposed to 38% for $30-$50K and 43% for $50K-100K.

In the words of the Secret Service report, "Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack," I assume it's possible that the explanation is no more complicated than the fact that more affluent people buy more guns. (Any thoughts?)

I'm also wondering whether 'targeted school violence' ever happens in parochial schools.

Do we know?

Monday, December 17, 2012

when everything changed

1985 again: But there also seems to have been a small previous increase in these incidents in the late 1980s that no one much noticed.

From Deadly Lessons:

Figure 9-4 shows that student-perpetrated school rampages (with or without a fatality) are not entirely new phenomena. There were two such incidents in the 1970s and six in the 1980s. And yet it also seems clear that the frequency of student-perpetrated school rampages resulting in multiple victimizations increased dramatically after 1994. The difference is highlighted in the figure by lines showing the mean number of such incidents per year in the 17-year period from 1974 to 1990 and the 11-year period from 1991 to 2001. The mean number of student-perpetrated rampages increased from an average of 0.53 incidents per year to an average of 3.27 incidents per year.

It is important to note that these are very small numbers. It is also important to note that the increase observed in the 1990s could be explained at least in part by a reporting phenomenon. It seems likely that the media would cover fatalities in schools, and particularly fatalities that occurred with multiple victimization, with a high degree of consistency and reliability over the entire period from 1974 to 2001. What we cannot be sure of, however, is whether the media would have covered incidents involving multiple victimizations without a fatality as consistently or reliably over this period. While it seems likely that multiple victimizations in a school setting would be newsworthy throughout this period, we cannot be entirely sure that the media weren’t particularly sensitized to the issue of school rampage shootings in the late 1990s, and therefore began covering these more assiduously (even when they did not involve fatalities) than had previously been true. If the media were sensitized to these events, part of the increase could be accounted for by the increased likelihood of news accounts of such events, not by an increase in the real underlying rate of these events. Still, the difference in the rate of these events is impressive and would easily be rejected as a chance occurrence if the reporting were accurate, even though the numbers are very small.

Our media search also uncovered five student-perpetrated school rampages in other countries (Table 9-2). While these results may be biased by the less certain coverage of international events, it seems noteworthy that only one incident occurred in 1975 and no additional shootings occurred until 1999. The 1999 shooting was followed by three other rampages involving different means of inflicting harm on others (arson, stabbing, and shooting). This suggests that school rampages are not unique to the United States and, since no international school rampages were evident until 1999, rampages in other countries may have been somehow influenced by the U.S. epidemic in the 1990s.

One final point: a December 2001 article in the Boston Globe reported that since the April 1999 Columbine tragedy, 12 U.S. school rampage shootings have been discovered and thwarted before they came to fruition. Ideally, we could put these events on Figure 9-4 as a further indication of the trends in time of these school rampage shootings. There are three problems in doing so, however. First, it is quite likely that, given the public concern about the school rampages, the newspapers would be much more likely to report on thwarted incidents in this period than they would have in earlier periods. Second, given efforts to mobilize students to report these events and law enforcement to take them seriously, it is quite likely that the police would find more such events and that they would treat each event as a serious plot that was really to be carried out rather than mere fantasizing by the kids involved. Third, in any case, Figure 9-4 records events that actually occurred. Presumably, for every act that actually occurred, there were some others in which some preparations were made, but for a variety of reasons, the act never occurred. Consequently, we would have to assume that there were even more attempts to be found than completions. What we are observing in the thwarted events, then, are some incidents that might never have occurred even if the police had not found them in time.

For all these reasons, it is inappropriate to put these thwarted shootings in the same figure as the other data. Still, the fact that these thwarted events were planned during this period is consistent both with the idea that planning for such events increased in the latter half of the 1990s, and that society and the police got a bit better at learning about and thwarting the events. But the data cannot prove this claim.

While the data depicted in Figure 9-4 are weak by scientific standards, they are still important to include in the effort to understand multiple-victim lethal school violence. What they suggest is that school rampage shootings are not a recent phenomenon, nor are they uniquely a U.S. phenomenon. It seems likely that the United States has experienced an epidemic of these incidents in the latter half of the 1990s—that is, an unexpected increase in their number. There may also have been some contagion mechanisms at work—that is, some kind of copycat influence.

If the international and thwarted incidents are included in the basic time trend of observed school rampages, then copycat mechanisms seem likely. But there also seems to have been a small previous increase in these incidents in the late 1980s that no one much noticed. The lack of notice may have prevented the escalation of these shootings through the copycat phenomenon. But this is largely speculation, not a scientific claim. It seems unlikely that this phenomenon is either entirely new or entirely unique to the United States. It may have gotten worse recently and— even more speculatively—that may be in part the result of a kind of contagion. But the problem has endemic and international aspects as well as epidemic and U.S. ones.

thwarted attacks

kcab was right:
[A] December 2001 article in the Boston Globe reported that since the April 1999 Columbine tragedy, 12 U.S. school rampage shootings have been discovered and thwarted before they came to fruition.

Moore, Mark H., Petrie, Carol V., Braga, Anthony A., and McLaughlin, Brenda L., ed. Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence. Washington D.C.: National Academies Press, 2003. (296.)

how much violence in American schools? Secret Service Report

(Bullet-point summary below excerpt)
The Prevalence of Violence in American Schools

Public policy-makers, school administrators, police officials, and parents continue to search for explanations for the targeted violence that occurred at Columbine High School and other schools across the country, and seek assurance that similar incidents will not be repeated at educational institutions in their communities. While the quest for solutions to the problem of targeted school violence is of critical importance, reports from the Department of Education, the Justice Department, and other sources indicate that few children are likely to fall prey to life-threatening violence in school settings.

To put the problem of targeted school-based attacks in context, from 1993 to 1997, the odds that a child in grades 9-12 would be threatened or injured with a weapon in school were 7 to 8 percent, or 1 in 13 or 14; the odds of getting into a physical fight at school were 15 percent, or 1 in 7.7 In contrast, the odds that a child would die in school–by homicide or suicide–are, fortunately, no greater than 1 in 1 million. In 1998, students in grades 9-12 were the victims of 1.6 million thefts and 1.2 million nonfatal violent crimes, while in this same period 60 school-associated violent deaths were reported for this student population.

The findings of the Safe School Initiative’s extensive search for recorded incidents of targeted school-based attacks underscore the rarity of lethal attacks in school settings. The Department of Education reports that nearly 60 million children attend the nation’s 119,000+ schools. The combined efforts of the Secret Service and the Department of Education identified 37 incidents of targeted school-based attacks, committed by 41 individuals over a 25-year period.

Nevertheless, the impact of targeted school-based attacks cannot be measured in statistics alone. While it is clear that other kinds of problems in American schools are far more common than the targeted violence that has taken place in them, the high profile shootings that have occurred in schools over the past decade have resulted in increased fear among students, parents, and educators. School shootings are a rare, but significant, component of the problem of school violence. Each school-based attack has had a tremendous and lasting effect on the school in which it occurred, the surrounding community, and the nation as a whole. In the wake of these attacks, fear of future targeted school violence has become a driving force behind the efforts of school officials, law enforcement professionals, and parents to identify steps that can be taken to prevent incidents of violence in their schools.
Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States - 2004
OK, so boiling it down:
  • Odds of a high school student being threatened or injured with a weapon in school: 7 to 8 percent
  • Odds of a high school student getting into a physical fight at school: 15 percent
  • Odds of high school student being the victim of in-school theft: 2.7 percent
  • Odds of a high school student being the victim of a non-fatal violent crime: 2 percent
Two percent of all children in high school were the victims of violent crime --- ???!!!

That number needs to be zero.

The Safe Schools Initiative - what they looked at

kcab asked whether the Secret Service report on targeted school violence looked at attacks that were prevented as well as attacks that were carried out.

The answer is 'no.' The report looks only at attacks that were actually carried out.

The bad news, I suspect, is that the reason the report didn't look at attacks that were prevented is simply that attacks never are prevented. Not by school authorities, at any rate.

I doubt many planned school shootings have been prevented by parents, either. Parents never know about the plans -- none of the adults in the student's life knows. There are often kids who know, but no adults. And kids don't tell.

Once a student plans a shooting attack on his school, it's up to him whether he goes through with it or not.

At least, that's the way I read the findings.

update: I read the findings wrong.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

from the Secret Service report: bullying and "targeted school shootings"

Key Finding 7

Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.


Bullying was not a factor in every case, and clearly not every child who is bullied in school will pose a risk for targeted violence in school. Nevertheless, in a number of the incidents of targeted school violence studied, attackers described being bullied in terms that suggested that these experiences approached torment. These attackerstold of behaviors that, if they occurred in the workplace, likely would meet legal definitions of harassment and/or assault.

The Final Report and Findings of the Safe Schools Initiative
I'm thinking that this must have been the section of the report that got all the headlines when it was released 12 years ago. I remember a huge amount of attention paid to bullying in the wake of Columbine.

more data from the Secret Service report

From the 2000 Secret Service report on "targeted school shootings":
The result was the Safe School Initiative, an extensive examination of 37 incidents of targeted school shootings and school attacks that occurred in the United States beginning with the earliest identified incident in 1974 through May 2000. The focus of the Safe School Initiative was on examining the thinking, planning, and other behaviors engaged in by students who carried out school attacks. Particular attention was given to identifying pre-attack behaviors and communications that might be detectable--or "knowable"--and could help in preventing some future attacks.
Thirty seven attacks in 26 years. The investigators looked at all of them.

I read the report cover-to-cover yesterday and recommend it. Strongly recommend. (Among other things, it is a model of clarity up to and including use of bullet points, italicized print, and white space.)

I was surprised by a great deal of what I read -- and I was surprised to be surprised given the amount of reading I do on all things school-related.

One thing I learned: the image of the schizophrenic loner-slash-loser is pretty wide of the mark.
For those incidents for which information on the attackers’ school performance was available, that information indicates that those attackers differed considerably from one another in their academic achievement in school, with grades ranging from excellent to failing (n=34).
  • The attackers in the largest grouping were doing well in school at the time of the attack, generally receiving As and Bs in their courses (41 percent; n=17); some were even taking Advanced Placement courses at the time of the incident or had been on the honor roll repeatedly.
  • Fewer of the attackers were receiving Bs and Cs (15 percent, n=6), or Cs and Ds (22 percent, n=9).
  • Very few of the attackers were known to be failing in school (5 percent, n=2).
Attackers also varied in the types of social relationships they had established, ranging from socially isolated to popular among their peers.
  • The largest group of attackers for whom this information was available appeared to socialize with mainstream students or were considered mainstream students themselves (41 percent, n=17).
  • One-quarter of the attackers (27 percent, n=11) socialized with fellow students who were disliked by most mainstream students or were considered to be part of a "fringe" group.
  • Few attackers had no close friends (12 percent, n=5).
  • One-third of attackers had been characterized by others as "loners," or felt themselves to be loners (34 percent, n=14).
  • However, nearly half of the attackers were involved in some organized social activities in or outside of school (44 percent, n=18). These activities included sports teams, school clubs, extracurricular activities, and mainstream religious groups.
Attackers’ histories of disciplinary problems at school also varied. Some attackers had no observed behavioral problems, while others had multiple behaviors warranting reprimand and/or discipline.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the attackers had never been in trouble or rarely were in trouble at school (63 percent, n=26).
  • One-quarter of the attackers had ever been suspended from school (27 percent, n=11).
  • Only a few attackers had ever been expelled from school (10 percent, n=4).
Most attackers showed no marked change in academic performance (56 percent, n=23), friendship patterns (73 percent, n=30), interest in school (59 percent, n=24), or school disciplinary problems (68 percent, n=28) prior to their attack.

A few attackers even showed some improvements in academic performance (5 percent, n=2) or declines in disciplinary problems at school (7 percent, n=3) prior to the attack. In one case, the dean of students had commended a student a few weeks before he attacked his school for improvements in his grades and a decline in the number of disciplinary problems involving that student in school.
The Final Report and Findings of the Safe Schools Initiative

"I am Adam Lanza's mother"

C. read this article this morning.

It's incredible:
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.


According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son's social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. "If he's back in the system, they'll create a paper trail," he said. "That's the only way you're ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you've got charges."

I don't believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael's sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn't deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.

With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation's largest treatment centers in 2011.

No one wants to send a 13-year-old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, "Something must be done."

I agree that something must be done. It's time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health.
I am Adam Lanza's Mother by Liza Long
Number one, I personally would put police officers in schools.

Number two, I have no idea whether some form of gun control -- or ammunition control -- would prevent mass killings, or at least reduce the carnage. (I've always been intrigued by Pat Moynihan's scheme to impose a 10,000% tax on ammunition.)

But number three, the mental health system, to the extent that we can be said to have a mental health system, is not working, and I'm grateful to Gawker for publishing this mother's account.

For parents like me, who have children with classic developmental disabilities, there is a pretty well-developed system in place. Obviously, that system has its problems in the form of abusive aides and very low funding, but that's not the issue here. The system exists, and the assumptions that undergird it are rational, at least in my experience.

The situation is radically different for children and adults with mental illnesses -- or, even worse -- dual diagnoses, which is what I'm going to guess we're talking about with Adam Lanza. Individuals with dual diagnoses are a very challenging population.

Speaking of ---- we're just back from the Christmas party at Jimmy's group home. The head of the house is leaving to work with women aged 40 to 60 who have dual diagnoses.

As he put it: These are people who are independent enough to go out in the community on their own, but not make good decisions.

Here is E. Fuller Torrey:
A Predictable Tragedy in Arizona
Bureacratic Insanity