title of this article is disgusting. No one should ever have to consider
their students as "dangerous." However, that is where we are in
Some refuse to believe it and rely on
"it will never happen in my school" philosophy [Erfurt,
Germany]. Fortunately, most of these
officials are right. Most schools will never experience the horror of
Paducah, Jonesboro or Columbine. Many other school officials have decided
that playing the odds belongs in a casino, not in a school, and have taken
proactive steps in trying to identify
which kid will be the next shooter. This too, can be a perilous course with
dire consequences for certain students caught up in the frenzy.
student who wears a trench coat. Any student who listens to Punk, Thrash,
Gothic, etc. Any student who plays video games. This list goes on. These are
well meaning policy statements, but they are statistics out of context. All
students are a mosaic of different features, characteristics and
backgrounds. To truly see a student, it is important to see the whole
picture. Focusing on a single tile in the mosaic has caused pain and
embarrassment to schools, students and families.
were born out of the frustration of not knowing what to do.
infamous "Zero Tolerance" approach has probably caused far more
problems than it has averted. An attorney (Mr. Whitehead)
said, "zero-tolerance policies are flawed because they do not take into
account children's intentions and often result in school officials
suspending a child before telling the parents about the problem."
A number of controversial cases of children being suspended and expelled for
childhood pranks and little discretion as to what is considered a real
school threat versus child's play have brought national attention to school
discipline and zero-tolerance policies in America's schools. [Assessment
Instrument helps determine Prank from Potentially Dangerous Student - Learn
The table below points up some the over-reactions recorded in the media.
An 8-year-old boy in Ark., was suspended for three
days after pointing a breaded chicken finger at a teacher and saying,
"Pow, pow, pow."
The Colorado Springs school district suspended a 6
year old boy 1/2 day for giving another child a lemon drop candy. The
child was disciplined under the school's "zero-tolerance" drug
policy for "distributing" the candy to another person.
Answering public criticism, a school official pointed out that bringing
candy to school was as disruptive as bringing a gun.
Two second-grade students in New York, who were
suspended and criminally charged with making terrorist threats for
pointing paper guns and saying, "I'm going to kill you." The
criminal charges were dropped.
Four kindergartners in New Jersey, who were suspended
for three days after they pretended their fingers were guns and said
they wanted to shoot one another.
- Cape Central High School today suspended 253 students who drove their
cars to school. "We have a strict policy against any student who
brings a weapon that can cause harm, injury, or disruption,"
explained Assistant Principal Herman Stasi. "An automobile is the
most dangerous weapon a person can legally own. It's time we put a stop
to this deadly menace."
A five-year-old found a razor blade at
the bus stop and turned it in to his teacher. He was suspended for
having a weapon at school.
A six-year-old kissed a classmate and
was suspended for sexual harassment.
A nine year old found a manicure set
on his way to school. He was suspended for having a weapon.
A sixth grader came to school with a
small knife in her lunch box for cutting chicken. She went straight to
the teacher and asked if that was OK. She was arrested and taken from
school in a Police car, then suspended.
If it does not work to focus on a single
facet, then what are we to do? Obviously, the answer is to look at the whole
student, but that takes a psychological assessment and the time and cost are
too great for the average school to bear. What is needed is a simple set of
observable characteristics and a method for school personnel to record and
rate these observations. Multiple governmental agencies have developed lists
from exhaustive research into the school shootings of the past 10 – 15
years and have identified a number of common traits. Unfortunately, each of
these reports are as exhausting to read as they were to compile. Any attempt
to use them without further refinement has left teachers and administrators
frustrated at the effort. "Zero Tolerance" Policies were born out
of this frustration.
The basic idea is good: "If a student
is violent, quick to anger, from a broken home, listens to hard core music,
plays violent video games, is an outcast, and the victim of bullying, he or
she may be a P.D.S. (potentially dangerous student)." In
practice, the problem becomes apparent when confronted with real kids who
have varying degrees of such characteristics, or perhaps do not have some at
all, or perhaps only experienced a particular trait one time. What effect
would these variables have? Are all students then potentially dangerous? If
classroom teachers become aware of these traits in a student, will that
student ever again be treated fairly?
The good news is that there is a
three-tiered program to help schools identify the Potentially Dangerous
Student and to differentiate between dangerous
students and the pranksters. This program,
developed and taught by Keys To Safer Schools.com gives schools a
method to observe, assess and get help for students who are following a path
similar to that followed by school shooters. The heart of the program
involves a simplified list of observable traits and characteristics gleaned
from the multitude of well-researched national reports.
ONE - The first tier in the program involves
familiarizing the entire school staff with these characteristics and
teaching them to be aware of and how to report their observations. The
approach taken by Keys To Safer Schools.com does not add any
additional burden or paperwork to the seriously overworked classroom
teacher. It is important that schools include the entire staff in this
process. Too often, schools reserve such training for the teaching or
professional staff. It is important that support staff, Bus Drivers,
Custodians, Maintenance, Food Service, Nurses, Aides, Volunteers and
even involved parents, are included. These staff see all the students
but in an entirely different relationship from the classroom and
administrative staff. The instructional portion is essential. Without
it, the staff will read the list of characteristics and flood the Assessment
Team with reports on every student in school. The instruction,
usually an in-service
training, presents the characteristics but informs the staff
how to observe in context and in developmental settings. What may be
appropriate for a 3rd grader is reportable if seen in a 7th
grader. What may be acceptable during a competition in the gym is not
acceptable in the classroom. Not every single-parent home is a
"broken" home. Once the staff is familiar with these
characteristics, what do they do about it?
TWO - The second tier of this program is establishing and
training an Assessment Team. Each school district should identify
3 or 4 personnel from each school to form Assessment Teams. These
numbers are not required for collaboration as a single, trained
individual can perform an assessment. The numbers are to insure the
ability of any staff member to reach a qualified Assessment Team person
without undue delays for meetings, conferences and such. The Assessment
Team is trained in the use of a unique one-page Assessment
Instrument. Each of the characteristics is presented in
detail and variations. It is then ranked on a lacquered scale for
severity or number of occurrences. These are summed and applied to an
overall rating that tells the school if the student is in need of
intervention immediately or should they continue to watch and observe.
There is also a sample decision tree for the school to use in developing
their own. A decision tree is important because it frees the
administration from personal involvement with every case and allows the
Assessment Team to put solutions into motion without having to wait
until they can confer with the administration. When the training is
completed, each Assessment Team member present is awarded Certification
that is valid for two years. An abbreviated refresher training is
required every two years to maintain Certification and stay current with
trends and developments. The school is awarded a license to
reproduce the Assessment Instrument without the added cost of having to
purchase the copyrighted form. Schools that have this in place report
great success with the added benefit of having an objective tool to
record why disciplinary actions varied from one student to
another. Another very important part of TIER THREE which is cover
else where is the "First
THREE - The third element of the Potentially Dangerous
Student program is entire student body. In every one of the school
shootings, other students knew about it to some degree but either told
no one or were ignored if they did report. The Keys To Safer
Schools.com student assembly, Kids
are the Keys, presents the concept to the students that
they are responsible for what happens at their school. In many
instances, it is a new concept for the students feel any ownership of
their school. Many students think that telling an adult about what
another kid is doing is "narcing" or tattling. This
interactive Assembly introducing them to responsible reporting as good
citizenship. The Keys To Safer Schools.com staff meets with the
school staff before the assembly to map out ways in which the students
can report with fear of reprisal. These methods are then presented to
the students and the school follows through with drop boxes, voice mail,
anonymous email or whatever system the school chooses.
* SEE -
ASSESSMENT MODEL for determining the PDS
The biggest disappointment reported is that the schools
were hoping to gain a "predictor of violence." The Keys To
Safer Schools.com program does not do that. However, every school that
has adopted this program reports being satisfied. It has help schools
identify students who are in need help or they could become a Potentially
Once again we ask ourselves, "Have we done all that
we can to insure the safety of our schools?" Keys To Safer Schools.com
is making a special offer to any school to review your crisis planning and
provide a written critique of any shortcomings found. To take advantage of
this offer, mail your school’s Crisis Plan and supporting documents to:
Keys To Safer Schools.com
P.O. Box 296
Bryant, AR 72089-0296.
Visit the Keys website for valuable information and
resource material on school violence prevention at http://keystosaferschools.com.
Programs to Combat Violence
Keys To Safer Schools.com
you have any comments or questions please Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.