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Vincent Bove Article

Published in:

The New Jersey Police Chief, December 2006

Violence Concerns from the Schoolhouse to the White House
By Vincent J. Bove, CPP

Due to the serious school violence incidents throughout America, there is a cry for leadership, vigilance and collaboration in schools and from the White House itself. On October 16, 2006 the President of the United States participated in a Conference on School Safety. The compelling tragedies that led to this extraordinary event, as well as subsequent tragedies, are deserving of reflection.

November 1, 2006 – New Orleans, Louisiana

According to a published New York Times report, no fewer then 25 security personnel protect John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, a facility troubled with grave security concerns.

Many of the students at this school live on their own or with other students since their parents were displaced due to Hurricane Katrina. The displacement has been a powder keg for anger that continually is manifested through violence. During the first six weeks of this school year, a teacher and security guard were brutally beaten by students and hospitalized. Many other students have attacked other security personnel, teachers and a police officer. Over 20 students of the 775 already face expulsion and another 50 have already been suspended. Principal Donald Jackson stated there are fights every day and there have already been six very serious assaults.

October 31, 2006 – New Britain, Connecticut

A 16-year-old New Britain High School student in Connecticut was under arrest after police stated he stabbed another 16-year-old in the back as the youth was leaving the school cafeteria. James Weatherby, the uncle of the student stated there were serious internal injuries, since the knife lacerated the youth’s kidney.

October 19, 2006 – Orlando, Florida

In an apparent conflict over a girl, a 15 year-old-male high school student was stabbed with a serrated edge knife by a 17 year old student. The boy was transported to the hospital where he later died.

October 18, 2006 – Asbury Park, New Jersey

An 18-year-old Asbury Park High School student was shot in the head. Tylik Pugh was shot near Asbury Park Middle School and died after being taken off life support the next day.

School officials closed the schools for the rest of the week following the killing. They feared for the safety of the 3,000 student's in the cities schools.

October 17, 2006 – Katy, Texas

A 16-year-old-high school sophomore committed suicide by shooting himself in the school cafeteria with a handgun.

School officials closed the schools for the rest of the week following the killing. They feared for the safety of the 3,000 student's in the cities schools.

October 2, 2006 – Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania

In one of the most horrific acts of American school violence history, a 32-year old male shot 10 young girls, aged 6 to 13, killing five of them in a one-classroom rural Amish schoolhouse.

September 29, 2006 – Cazenovia, Wisconsin

A ninth grader shot his principal three times with a handgun at Weston School in Cazenovia, Wisconsin. The student also had a shotgun which was grabbed by a janitor but he managed to pull a .22 out of his pants and started shooting the principal.

John Klang, the principal, who had three children later died. The 15-year old, who pried open his family’s gun cabinet to obtain the weapons was taken into custody and charged as an adult.

September 27, 2006 – Bailey, Colorado

Students were evacuated from Platte Canyon High School after shots were fired, female student hostages were taken and the actor claimed to have explosives.

The crisis ended after the gunman sexually assaulted hostages, shot and critically wounded 16-year-old Emily Keyes, who later died and then committed suicide when the SWAT team entered the facility.

As a precaution other schools in the area were put in lockdown, preventing egress until authorized by school administrators.

August 24, 2006 – Essex, Vermont

Serving as a glaring reminder of the collateral damage of domestic violence was an incident resulting in the deaths of two elementary school teachers.

Linda Lambesis and Mary Alicia Shanks, two dedicated teachers, were killed by Christopher A. Williams, 27, the former boyfriend of Lambesis’ daughter. After shooting Lambesis, Williams then went looking for her daughter at Essex Elementary School where Shanks, 56, was killed in her 2nd floor classroom. Shanks taught for over 30 years and her brother stated, "She passed away in the world she loved so much-her classroom."


Community Cohesiveness

The grave security concerns at the John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, where students displaced from their families are caught up in a battlefield of fights, assaults and a dangerously distressing atmosphere offers a profound insight into the criticality of community. Whenever there is any community deterioration or brokenness, whether it is the community of the family, neighborhood, school, town or city itself, this breakdown can contribute to inappropriate acting act that includes various intensities of violence.

Community cohesiveness is part of the internal ticking clock of the human condition and vital for personal growth, health, safety and welfare since each and every human being is inherently social by nature. In light of this social dimension, the concept of community policing and its proper understanding and implementation has an extremely critical dynamism for school violence prevention.

School Resource Officer / Youth Police Academy /Community Policing

The school resource officer is the most dynamic school violence prevention initiative in America since it facilitates community policing by bridging the gap between the youth of the community and the police department. Schools and law enforcement agencies must do everything possible to initiate and enhance the community policing school resource officer as well as youth police academies which intensify bridge building between youth and law enforcement.

An extraordinary model of the school resource officer initiative is Detective Kenneth J. Martin of the Hackensack, New Jersey Police Department. Detective Martin has been a police officer for 21 years and has been assigned to the agency’s juvenile unit as a school resource officer for 19 years. His primary responsibility is to Hackensack High School as its SRO and he also serves the educational community as the truant officer for the Hackensack middle school and five elementary schools.

Due to his approachable personality, Detective Martin builds trust with the youth of Hackensack and assists them with achieving their goals while keeping them safe at school and in the community. Recently, he worked with his department, the board of education and the local congressman and successfully secured a grant that enhanced physical security at the high school with the installation of 32 new CCTV’S.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) recognized the Hackensack Police Department and the Hackensack Board of Education as a model agency for its SRO program which has served as a training ground for SRO’S from eleven other New Jersey police departments.

Detective Martin is a national SRO practitioner which is the standard by which NASRO, police agencies and school districts recognize law enforcement personnel who have excelled in the area of school based policing.

Bullying Awareness, Prevention and Intervention

In the Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States, the U.S. Secret Service reported that "attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to an incident. In several cases, individual attackers had experienced bullying that was long-standing and severe."

According to a report by the Department of Education entitled Preventing Bullying: A Manual for Schools and Communities, every day in American schools children are threatened, teased, taunted and tormented by schoolyard bullies. Bullying can be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual in nature such as:

  • Physical which involves beating, punching, poking, strangling, biting, kicking, hair pulling and abusive tickling
  • Verbal with cruel acts of teasing, gossip and name calling including the victim and individuals who are important in the victim’s life such as family members
  • Emotional which includes humiliating, defaming, blackmailing, terrorizing, extorting and insulting another’s personal characteristics such as race, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity
  • Sexual bullying involves sexual harassment and abuse involving actual physical contact and sexual assault
The solution to bullying must be comprehensive with school level interventions and the formation of bullying prevention initiatives which include
  • staff in service day training,
  • school wide awareness events,
  • rules and policies against bullying,
  • recognition and awarding of pro-social behavior,
  • involvement of parents of bullies and victims,
  • community activities,
  • continual vigilant supervision of youth at school and school activities,
  • interaction with law enforcement on significant incidents,
  • immediate confrontation of bullies with measured intervention,
  • opportunities to anonymous report concerns, and
  • a no tolerance policy toward bullying in the schools.

Character Education

The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools of the U.S. Department of Education defines character education as

"a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society."

To successfully implement character education, schools must actively:

  • Take a leadership role with the entire school community to identify and define the elements of character they wish to emphasize
  • Provide training for staff on the integration of character into the very culture of the school
  • Collaboratively work with students, staff, families and the community so the message about the quality of character is consistent
  • Provide opportunities for school leaders, teachers, parents and the community members to model and be rewarded for positive social and character traits
On October 10, 2006 at the White House Conference on School Safety, Craig Scott, the brother of Rachel Scott, the first student killed at Columbine advised the President of the United States and honored the character legacy of his sister. Mr. Scott, only 16 and in the school at the time of his sister's death stated:
"Once upon a time, our goal of education in our country was, first and foremost, character. Academic achievement is now the main goal. I knew two students at Columbine that achieved that goal of knowledge. Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold were very smart…Their problem wasn’t their education at my school, Columbine. Their problem was their character… I challenge every teacher, principal, superintendent and educator here today to look at teaching that doesn’t just teach the head, but teaches the heart."

Emergency Planning and Crisis Management

A sound emergency plan facilitates the actions to be taken by a school to protect students, staff, the public and assets from threats created by natural and man-made hazards. The emergency plan must be designed to prevent an incident whenever possible or to control incidents that cannot be prevented to minimize damage. Every school should have an emergency plan in easily read format and complete with delineated emergency response procedures.

Inseparable from an emergency plan is a crisis management team which is essential to a school. Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities is an solid resource of the U.S. Department of Education. The document reveals the four phases of crisis management as mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. According to this guide, the key principles for effective crisis planning are:

  • Effective crisis planning begins with leadership at the top
  • Crisis plans should not be developed in a vacuum
  • School and districts should open the channels of communication well before a crisis
  • Crisis plans should be developed in partnership with other community groups, including law enforcement, fire safety officials, emergency medical services, as well as health and mental health professionals
  • A common vocabulary is necessary
  • Schools should tailor district crisis plans to meet individual school needs
  • Plan for the diverse needs of youth and staff
  • Provide teachers and staff with ready access to the plan so they can understand its components and act on them
  • Training and practice are essential for the successful implementation of crisis plans
  • Crisis plans are living documents

Physical Security

Implementation of the most state of the art physical security technology is deserving of America’s schools since we are the nation that prides itself for its technological mastery. These physical countermeasures include

In addition, security vulnerability assessments by a certified authority and initiatives that train the entire school community are advisable for developing and enhancing a safe school environment. Topics to be covered can include:

  • gang awareness and resistance,
  • alcohol abuse,
  • drug free schools,
  • disaster awareness,
  • terrorism,
  • crime stoppers,
  • internet security,
  • truancy prevention,
  • underage drinking and impaired driving prevention,
  • athletic/assembly event security, and
  • inservice faculty/staff training.

School and community working together can provide a safe and productive future for our children.

Vincent J. Bove, CPP is a Board Certified Protection Professional, Board Certified Crime Prevention Specialist, Certified Law Enforcement Instructor and U.S. Department of Justice Certified Community Anti-Terrorism Awareness Trainer.

He is the 2007 New Jersey recipient of the prestigious FBI Director's Community Leadership Award and was hand-selected to serve as a facilitator and mentor for the 2007 National Conference on Ethics in America and speaker for the 2008 conference at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

"Vincent J. Bove is considered one of the foremost national experts on school and workplace violence prevention, specializing in facility protection, evacuations, terrorism prevention and leadership training." -- U.S. Senate

You can visit Mr. Bove's website at www.vincentbove.com or email him at vincent@vincentbove.com

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