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"Murphy was an optimist!"

Knox County Schools Wastes Students Time April 21, 2009 12:24 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Education, Health
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Knox County Schools wasted an hour and a half of our children’s lives today by having every student walk through a metal detector as they entered Bearden Middle Schoool and randomly searching every eighth student. This waste of money, teacher resources, and student time produced no weapons. Randomly searches are ineffective and counterproductive which is why I begged that that the school board vote no to random searches. This is the beginning to the end of your civil liberties. The principal went so far as to say that we need to get used to this because one day we will have to walk through metal detectors just to get in the grocery store. Seriously?! Are you really that scared?

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics.

The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we’re doing exactly what the terrorists want.

[Source, Bruce Schneier – Security Expert, Refuse to be Terrorized]

Know what I fear? The emotional damage you are causing my child by putting him through the stress of a pointless random search.

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1. LissaKay - April 21, 2009

So, if Doug were in charge of the world, or at least the local schools, what would you do?

A. Nothing. No searches at all. The chance of a kid bringing a weapon into the school is too small to worry about.
B. Search everyone. Have all students, faculty and staff enter through metal detectors and have officers with wands to double check those that set the detectors off. Fair treatment for all.
C. Search only the kids that are considered high-risk – ie. SpEd students, ones with criminal records (which would require an information link with the juvenile court system, but would miss those adjudicated in non-local courts), kids who have been bullied, kids that are bullies, kids from broken homes, kids from certain socio-economic backgrounds.
D. Clandestine observance – monitoring kids’ Facebook and MySpace pages, blogs, Twitter, email, cell phone text messages, phone calls, eavesdropping, personal notebooks and journals, etc.
E. Rely on other kids to report on others (tattling, rumor-mill, etc)
F. Some other solution to try to ensure kids’ safety in school

Every time there has been a weapons-in-school incident, there is discussion of what we shoulda, woulda, coulda done to prevent it. But when those things that should have been done before are done proactively elsewhere, someone always objects. None of the proposed solutions is perfect, none of them “fair” to the kids or staff involved. Do we seriously just do nothing? Or do we implement yet another draconian school policy in the name of keeping kids safe?

2. Doug McCaughan - April 21, 2009

Your E answer is closest: Build trust between the student body and faculty.

This is the recommendation of an independent study that happened just before the Central High shooting. The report happened to be released just after that shooting and was reported in the Knoxnews. The report said that KCS had wasted millions on cameras and security and that the money would be better spent on personnel whose job would be to directly interact with the students. The school board didn’t like the results of the report and paid a group $140,000 to produce a contrary report which happened to recommend more cameras and random searches. A study that the US department of education would have done for free at the request of the school board.

Obviously the solution is not a simple quick fix that involves only buddy buddying up with the students but involves parent involvement, fixes at the home, fixes in our society etc. I do not have time to elaborate right now. But if you want true safety, then you eliminate fear rather than breed it.

To keep things in perspective, how many people are dying at school versus other ways to die and what extreme measures will we employ to prevent those deaths? Random searches are theater and will not prevent a shooter from drawing their weapon. Had a shooter been at the middle school today, when they lined all students up to walk through the metal detector, don’t you think that would have been a grand opportunity for the shooter to systematically mow down his victims rather than having to chase them into classrooms?

3. LissaKay - April 21, 2009

Perhaps getting kids to report on each other is the least offensive way of discovering weapons in school. However, it is very ineffective. No one has come forward with credible foreknowledge of Columbine. No one had any clue beforehand about the school shooters in Campbell County or at Central last year. Well, one girl said she saw the gun moments before it was used. No time for a report to a teacher to have made a difference.

Kids can be very sneaky. Knowing that their fellow students will be likely to rat them out, they will just keep their plans to themselves. Then there is the very real and very dangerous possibility of false reporting, either out of spite or simply because a kid acts “weird” – and you and I both know exactly how weird kids can get, and still be perfectly harmless.

By their very nature, being a compulsory part of a child’s life, schools are the antithesis of an open and trusting relationship. Teachers are not “friends” to students, they are givers of work. Faculty are not trusted or trusting, kids have to have a note for everything they do, everywhere they go.

Maybe in an ideal world in some alternate universe, that might work. But not here, not now, perhaps not ever. As I said, there is no perfect solution, and I have no ideas at the moment other than removing the compulsory attendance requirement after the 6th or 8th grade. But then, I’m a radical libertarian.

4. Doug McCaughan - April 21, 2009

Perhaps getting kids to report on each other is the least offensive way of discovering weapons in school. However, it is very ineffective.

Can you document that because the reports I have read say the contrary?

the Safe School Initiative findings indicate that incidents of targeted violence in school were rarely impulsive; that the students who perpetrated these attacks usually planned out the attack in advance–with planning behavior that was oftentimes observable; and that, prior to most attacks, other children knew that the attack was to occur. Taken together, these findings suggest that it may be possible to prevent some future school attacks from occurring–and that efforts to identify, assess, and manage students who may have the intent and capacity to launch an attack may be a promising strategy for prevention [Source, Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates]

That doesn’t say "random searches." An independent study of security at Knox County Schools was conducted just before the Central High shooting. That study said we needed adults interacting with students to prevent problems. Unfortunately that study was contrary to what the school board desired and since the time it appeared in the Knoxnews I have not been able to find it to source it. Funny that. And no one said that the staff has to be friends with the students. They have to have a relationship with the student that is not based upon fear. And the staff has to listen. Random searches would not have changed the outcome of the Central High shooting nor Columbine.

5. Doug McCaughan - April 21, 2009

For anyone that wants to catch up, all of this has been said before.

6. Morgan - April 21, 2009

I heard on NPR and got an email from the ACLU talking about the 13 year old girl who was strip searched, whose case is before the Supreme Court


I wonder how far we are from that. THAT really disturbs me.

I used to say I was glad I was out of school before columbine happened but I never thought about how my son would be affected by it now that he’s nearly high school aged. Now I’m wondering if my grandchildren will be subjected to strip searches.

7. Stormare Mackee - April 21, 2009

F. Remove the reasons for kids wanting to bring weapons to school in the first place: Poverty, abuse at home, broken homes, bullying, alienation, drugs, wrong influences, lack of morality and lack of upbringing.

Impossible? About as probable as catching would-be Columbine killers through random searches.

If you want your kids to stay safe, remove them from public schools or teach them to survive.

8. Andrea - April 21, 2009

Does anyone have stats on people who have been victims of gun violence, etc. and their thoughts on metal detectors and random searches?

My family and I were present during the shooting at TVUUC in July. I am against metal detectors and random searches, especially in my child’s school.

9. Barry - April 22, 2009

Far be it from me to step into the middle of McCaughan v Hailey, Round 73, I have no problem with the spirit of “C” above, but laden with a heavy, underlying dose of Stormare’s “F”. Don’t profile based on socio-economic status, but on past history of trouble, bullying, anti-social behavior, those with records and general troublemakers. Don’t harass them on a regular basis, but pay attention to them. While they’re getting the attention they crave (because they have none at home) you accomplish C while accomplishing F at the same time. You reach out to the ones most likely to pull a gun at school.

The CHS and Campbell county shooters, the Columbine kids – they were all troubled (obvious in hind-sight, less obvious at the time but should have been) who would have benefited from increased attention and respect from their teachers and administrators. If someone at the school had reached out to these kids, the tragedies may not have happened.

I know there were a couple teachers at CHS that tried, but were unable to reach him. It doesn’t always work, but it seems the best alternative.

I really wish I had blog access at work, or I’d tear into the Supreme Court for their mockery of the 13-yr-old’s strip search for ibuprofen yesterday. That’s way more of a threat to our civil liberties than a random weapon metal detector scan.

10. Doug McCaughan - April 22, 2009

Stormare- Nail on the head!

Andrea- I’m sorry you had to experience that horror. I’m somewhat surprised, and happy, that it didn’t change your view on metal detectors and random searches.

Morgan and Barry- The strip search bothers me on so many levels. I don’t feel like I should be faced with striping (pardon the pun) away my children’s innocence by having to have conversations along the lines of “if you are faced with a strip search, or any unreasonable search, just say no regardless of how mean the adults are to you, and call me” I don’t want them to have to live day to day thinking about this hypothetical situation happening to them. In the same way I felt it was wrong to have to be explaining sexual harassment to a child in the 2nd grade. I did put the strip search case up for discussion on Knox School Matters. Barry and Stormare are correct that the solution is reaching the children and that is documented in the US Secret Service and Dept of Education’s Threat Assessment document.

11. Barry - April 22, 2009

I don’t care if they suspect my child is carrying a live nuke in their pocket, and Jack Bauer’s at the door – if they feel the need to strip search, then they better call me first.

12. LissaKay - April 22, 2009

I was sincerely interested in Doug’s ideas for a better solution to random searches, Barry. There was no “versus” there. But I suppose that since I have been cast as the “bad guy” because my beliefs are not politically correct (but are Biblically correct), everyone just assumes conflict where there is none. But who was it that was bemoaning the tensions caused by differing political opinions? I was presuming the message therein was to respect one another. Is it actually ‘conform or shut up’?