Why Big Brother “School Safety” Measures Aren’t Making Schools Safer

Hi rnsehzzyed
Folks — Just read
this Salon interview with Aaron Kupchik, author of “Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear.” It’s an eye-opening look at the law-and-order mindset at many high schools these days.  I really loved what Kupchik had to say, especially this comment about the wide-reaching effect of Zero Tolerance laws:

Why are they so detrimental?

KUPCHIK: We’re teaching kids what it means to be a citizen in our country. And what I fear we’re doing is teaching them that what it means to be an American is that you accept authority without question and that you have absolutely no rights to question punishment. It’s very Big Brother-ish in a way. Kids are being taught that you should expect to be drug tested if you want to participate in an organization, that walking past a police officer every day and being constantly under the gaze of a security camera is normal. And my concern is that these children are going to grow up and be less critical and thoughtful of these sorts of mechanisms. And so the types of political discussions we have now, like for example, whether or not wiretapping is OK, these might not happen in 10 years.

Puts a new spin on “safety,” right? Especially when you read what he has to say about Columbine and the increase in security cameras and school police officers that tragedy prompted!

KUPCHIK: It’s also interesting that one of the ways that people try to prevent a “Columbine-like incident” — a phrase I heard frequently — is to put up surveillance cameras and put in SROs [School Resource Officers — security officers]. But they had both of those at Columbine. We can watch the surveillance footage of the police officers. Now, perhaps it would have been even more devastating if they had not been there; we’ll never know that. But it certainly didn’t prevent things from happening.

Wow! This blew my mind! So many times when we are told new precautions are “absolutely necessary” for security, we really have to think twice. Do we REALLY want school volunteers to have to undergo a background check — or does that cut down on the number of helping hands? Do we really need surveillance cameras everywhere?  Why? Are kids really safer when we don’t let dads go on camp-outs with Girl Scouts, when we make everyone sign their kid out of school in a time-consuming procedure, when we don’t let kids walk home on their own, when we prosecute parents who let their kids wait in the  car, when we put non-violent teens on the sex offender registry for life?  These are all new procedures bubbling up in this country, but whether they are making kids safer is questionable. Whether they are changing the tenor of society is not. — Lenore

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49 Responses to Why Big Brother “School Safety” Measures Aren’t Making Schools Safer

  1. Larry Harrison September 2, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    I agree 100%. To me, convenience is my priority. Safety will take care of itself if you have common sense, and besides, I’ve often-time said–and this affirms it–there are plenty of other forces at work to make sure safety is handled (maybe over-handled). So I focus much more energy on making things convenient for me, my wife and yes my child as well.

    You can call me “lazy” if you want, I don’t care. We’re plenty safe, maintain a decent standard of that, and let’s focus some energy on making life CONVENIENT.

  2. Beth September 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    What amazes me is that most classroom volunteers are parents (probably mostly mothers) volunteering in their own child’s classroom. (At least that’s the way it is where I live.)

    Schools are background-checking the very people they are sending the kids home with at the end of the day! As if pedophiles, or whatever group we’re afraid of, can handle themselves appropriately from 3pm to 8am, but once their in a school they can’t control themselves?

  3. Beth September 2, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    once *they’re* in a school….sigh…one should proofread one’s work…..

  4. AMom September 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    My brother teaches special ed at an inner city high school (near Gary, Indiana). Yesterday there was a fight after school hours, and the SRO called for back up. 7 police cars sped (at 60 mph according to my brother) into the school parking lot (which contained 1500 kids at the time). My brother says they’re lucky no one was run over. Even though the fight was broken up by the time police arrived, my brother reports that the police handcuffed several students. One student (a minor) who refused to be handcuffed was maced.

    I asked my brother if he still thought homeschooling was a terrible idea, and he said yes. I said, “Really?” and he said, “Yeah, Sis, just don’t send your kids to school in da hood.”

    Luckily for MY kids, we live 100 miles away in a nice, safe community. I’m extremely sad for the children who don’t have any choice but to attend the school in “da hood.”

    I don’t know what the answer is, though. Adults are afraid of teens. Especially young, black men. I think there’s a tendency to forget that these individuals are kids. Even my husband says, “Well, next time maybe he’ll listen to the police when they tell him to do something. 14 is old enough to know to listen to the police.” (We don’t know how old the student was – that’s just the minimum age he could’ve been at that school).

    I checked and nothing has hit the paper yet. I’m sad that it was such a non-event that it didn’t get reported to the news in that area. Does this sort of thing happen that regularly?

  5. B.S.H. September 2, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    I read the difinitive book on Columbine, and it said that one of the boys was a sociopath. Sociopaths are born and there is very little a parent can do to help. Fortunately, there are very few sociopaths. Unfortunately, there is pretty much nothing anyone can do to stop a Columbine from happening again.

  6. Molly September 2, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    There are two factors at play here that will keep these zero tolerance programs going:

    1) The notion that every tragedy was preventable, and the related inability to accept that sometimes, bad things happen.

    2) The decreasing ability to analyze the gray areas of a situation; i.e., to consider the facts and circumstances of any given situation and apply (or withhold) punishment accordingly.

    I think both of these lead to this ramped-up hysteria and the inability to see that our “solutions” aren’t working.

  7. lynn September 2, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    The middle school my son attends has officers all over the grounds. They stand in the halls and just bark at the kids. “Move along. Get going. Tuck in your shirt.” etc. etc. It sounds so incredibly demeaning!! I know that I would tune them out if I was there so I can’t imagine that they are serving much of a function really. We make it a point to have many conversations with our son about this problem. We believe he is a capable student and should be treated as such. Instead, the system treats these kids like they are a problem and would constantly get in trouble if the officers and ridiculous rules weren’t there to keep them “safe”. I know we can’t change the school, but at least I can let my son and his friends know how we feel about them and their ability to handle themselves.

  8. Susan September 2, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    This reminds me of something that happened in our city. In the early 90’s a little girl was abducted from a playground and murdered. There are law’s in our state carrying her name that call for notification when sex offenders move into a neighborhood and stiffer penalties for repeat sex offenders.

    I was reading up on the case on the internet a couple of years ago and I was amazed to read several articles that said that her body showed no signs of sexual assault. So these laws were passed supposedly as a result of her death and there isn’t even any evidence that her abduction and death was sex related.

    As a side note, a local sex offender was convicted of her murder (after less than 30 minutes of jury deliberation) at the time. Two or three years ago he was cleared of the crime due to new DNA technology.

  9. Grimalkin September 3, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    I actually ran up against zero tolerance when I was in High School. I had carried a pocket knife with me my entire life (nothing scary, just a Swiss Army knife that was great for art projects or cutting cheese to put in my sandwich at lunch, but not much use if I ever wanted to hurt someone). Where I grew up (in Switzerland), we had “nature days” where everyone was instructed to bring a notebook, a pen, and a pocket knife so that they could take plant samples back to class for further study.

    Then I moved to the US. Once again, I came from a culture where you were made fun of if you forgot your pocket knife on a school trip and entered a post-Columbine/zero tolerance hell. I hadn’t used or even removed my knife from my bag while in school, but I did use it to cut a twig on my way home from school one day and was apparently seen by one of my classmates. The next day, I was called into the principal’s office where my mother and a police officer waited. The police officer padded my down and searched my bag, obviously finding my knife (which was confiscated. He then escorted me and my mother off school grounds and I was told not to come back until the school called.

    We waited in limbo for two weeks until we finally received word that I would have a hearing – there were police officers present, as well as the principal and several members of the school board. It was decided that I should not be allowed back onto public school grounds for a full calendar year, but that I would be sent to a special private school for kids with behavioural problems during that time. As for my legal consequences, the school decided not to press charges, but I would have an appointment with a probation officer who would decide what would be on my record and what my punishment would be.

    When I went to the probation officer, he took one look at me and said “you don’t belong here” (I later found out why when I met some of the other people he saw on a regular basis!). He said that he had reviewed my case and that the school/police’s reaction was not appropriate, however a report had been made and his hands were tied. He gave me the lightest punishment he could – the incident would be wiped from my permanent record on my 18th birthday, I had to do a certain number of hours of community service, and I had to meet with a social worker once a week. I also had to notify his office ahead of time if I were leaving the state.

    I volunteered regularly anyway, so the community service was no problem. My social worker said I was her “night off” and we just went to the movies once a week on the state dime. The private school I ended up going to was, apart from a couple rough characters, a really cool environment and, as the “trustworthy” student, I got a lot of privileges and responsibilities, including the opportunity of teaching an art class to three autistic 12-year-olds and acting as a teacher’s assistant in other classes.

    All along the line, I was told again and again that the school and police’s reaction was completely un-called for. I had made no threats to anyone with me “weapon,” I had not even brought it out on school grounds, and there was a cultural barrier that should have been considered. I had a legitimate reason to carry a pocket knife (which I never got back, by the way). It was just post-Columbine hysteria run amok.

    But the truly hurtful part of the whole story is that, about a month before all this started, a boy in my grade got a poor mark on a test and grabbed the first person he saw as he came out of the class (a 15-year-old about half his size) and threw him against a locker. The kid ended up with a broken arm and a lot of bruises. The culprit got a 2-day suspension. So it’s not even that zero tolerance is an awful thing that prevents people from using their heads, it also looks only to certain queues and completely ignores kids with real problems who pose a very real physical threat to others around them. No one ever sent this kid to a social worker or a therapist. It was just shrugged off as a “kids will be kids” matter that deserved no more than a slap on the wrist.

  10. Larry Harrison September 3, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    I can’t believe that I forgot to say this, this is a big deal in my opinion.

    The worst school violence ever, in terms of lives lost to murder, happened in 1927. Wikipedia “Bath School Disaster” or “Andrew Kehoe” for more. More lives were lost in that than in Columbine, Virginia Tech, any of the ones the alarmists like to cite as justification for big-brother school measures.

    I think this is very important to keep in mind for historical perspective.

  11. EricS September 3, 2010 at 12:17 am #

    BSH, has it right. Just like with anything else, if someone is determined enough, there is nothing anyone can do to prevent their actions. Unless they knew of it before hand and stopped them from carrying it out. Unfortunately, we aren’t born with precognitive abilities.

    The “over security” that schools, institutions, and even our own government have implemented right after these rare attacks, don’t really do anymore than without them. Nothing wrong with taking precautions, but if these precautions to more harm than good, which they do, it’s just not worth it in the long run.

    I know if high schools in my area with metal detectors, security and patrol cops, and they still make news of a shooting, stabbing, or a fight. Yes there are sociopaths out there, but the vast majority of these troubled kids, are normal kids that haven’t been brought up right. They have learned to be introverts, insecure, and confused. That when they finally do make some sort of contact with friends, it’s usually with the bad crowd. But hey, they don’t know any better. All they know is that these other kids talk to them, hang out with them. Their confidence is based on false feelings of friendship and bonding. I’ve grown up with plenty of kids like this. Not saying all, but a good (alarming) number have parents that were sheltering, over protective (even to the point of abusive if the kids don’t listen), and untrusting and fearful. It’s not hard to put two and two together.

    Someone else mentioned in this blog before, fear is a decease. If you don’t treat it, it will consume you and everyone around you. But it can be treated. It just starts within the individual him/herself. There’s more things to being a parent than popping out babies, the goo-goo ga-ga’s, the showing off the little one, and calling yourself mom and dad. And there’s more to keeping a child safe than just avoiding the issue all together by using these “rules and regulations”. There has to be some sense that can be made for these, so that the children can understand. Not just, this is for your safety, follow it or face the consequences. Again…COMMON SENSE. That’s all it takes.

  12. EricS September 3, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    @Grimalkin: that’s the thing, IMO these security implementations are more for the best interest of the school or facility. So that they can say, “hey, we did everything we could. We put up camera, metal detectors, hired security personel.” All to avoid any lawsuits. But not so much for the kids. Such as you indicated.

    Adults…some are just selfish, self-centered, and ignorant. These “grown-ups” probably had helicopter parents as well. Anyone see the pattern, we always speak of? hmmmm

  13. Taylor September 3, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    @Molly about your 2) – I think it’s less a decreasing ability (as least as the original cause) than an abdication of the analysis required to deal with gray areas. I don’t think ability declined first, I think it’s declined like a muscle gets weaker.

    I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with notions fairness. Maybe we’ve put fairness up too high on the totem pole of social virtues. Zero-Tolerance is favored because tailored decisions need to be rationalized to prove fairness. A kid brings a knife to school and BAM! Fairness is meted out upon the kid like the zero-tolerance-policy-violating villain he is! His folks call because they don’t like his punishment, the administrator doesn’t have to give a justification for a decision. “I’m sorry, Mrs. So-and-so, we have a Zero-Tolerance Policy here at Whateverford Elementary School.” Otherwise the administrator has to try to justify a tailored solution that the kid’s folks don’t want to hear about.

    Zero-Tolerance policies are probably about deflecting blame too. “Our school has a zero-tolerance policy! What more could we possibly have done to prevent blah-blah-blah?” This feeds into Molly’s 1).

  14. Steve September 3, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    In spite of the evidence on the net and in books, schools and law inforcement continue to blind themselves to the reality that one of the major causes of school shootings is psychiatric medications.

    Instead, they continue to talk about bullying as a major cause.


    Bullying has existed since time began.

    Guns have existed for a very long time.

    People have lived in poverty since the beginning of time.

    High stress has existed since time began.

    School shootings did not exist back when I went to school.

    Or when my parents went to school.

    One place to read about this evidence is on the website of Dr. Peter Breggin:


    Our entire society is living spellbound by psychiatric meds. In search of a quick fix to personal problems, kids are doped up on meds that carry side effects almost identical to illegal drugs: side effects like aggression, anxiety, abnormal thoughts and dreams, suicidal thinking, and bizarre behavior and violence.

    A good article about Our Psychiatric Civilization is:


  15. Molly September 3, 2010 at 12:51 am #

    @Taylor – Very good points. The people in positions of authority can’t/won’t consider “incidents” on a case-by-case basis because they assume (and probably rightly so) that the parents won’t be able to see any situation involving their own kids rationally. So everything and everyone is treated the same, and next thing you know, you’re six year old is getting hauled off to jail for…who knows…pointing his fingers like they are a gun. And everyone’s goal – from the administrators and police to the parents and the kids – is to cover their own a$$.

    Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit being cynical…

  16. Evelyn September 3, 2010 at 12:57 am #

    I work at a top-ranked public university. During the academic year, my husband and I have access to a fantastic daycare facility on campus. We send our twin toddlers there and have since last year, when they were infants. I learned at the start of this school year, the facility is implementing a new card-swipe security system to enter the building. While meeting with our tots’ head daycare teacher prior to the start of the year, she gave the rationale that you never know what could happen, given the university climate – this is no doubt a Virginia Tech reference. She further went on to ask that neither myself or my husband hold the door for any other adults or students trying to enter the facility on our card-swipe.

    OK. The facility is up on a hill, at the edge of campus, far from any classroom or student residence hall areas. The campus is as rural as you can get, cows everywhere! Not to mention the fact that, hello, this is a college with liberal-minded academic types who pose such obvious danger to children, right? But we just can’t be too safe, you know, for the babies!

    I was especially offended, being a mother of multiples, who humbly accepts the kindness of strangers when they hold a door open so that she can wrangle two tots and whatever gear of the moment we are carrying. Apparently the lovely gesture of one adult holding a door open for another adult who likely also has kids at the same facility, is no longer SAFE.

    None of this made any sense until I found out that the parents’ group of the daycare facility had come up with this need for increased security measure. Of course, the PARENTS. I asked our teacher “Have you ever had a security incident in the past?” and the answer was “Well, uhm, no. But you just never know these days.”

    Great thinking, parents group! Let’s make an already-safe and friendly place, with zero record of malicious incidents into a high-security lockup and stop being polite to each other in the process. I don’t want to even talk about how the money spent on the security system could have been better spent for the kids… ughhh….

  17. Elfir September 3, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    Learned from the security measures at my high school ten years ago:
    – School is a prison
    – People in uniform are to be feared
    – You are guilty until proven innocent

    Weirdest and, in retrospect, creepiest experience: Enforced pep rallies. Teachers guarded the gym doors and security personnel patrolled the hallways to make sure nobody escaped school spirit.

  18. Wendy September 3, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    Recently I was at my older son’s high school to pick him up and take him to the doctor’s office.

    I had my 5 year old in tow.

    I had gone into the school (the office is directly off the entry hall – the main doors are LOCKED. You can only enter the school THROUGH the office.)

    I had checked in, shown my ID, been identified as my son’s mother and was waiting for him to be sent from his class to the office.

    My five year old needed to go to the bathroom. I asked the secretary where the nearest bathroom was and was told I could NOT ENTER THE SCHOOL. They had my ID. The bathroom entrance is visible from the office. I was there for a reason. But no… no toilets for FIVE YEAR OLDS — who knows what horrible damage my Kindergartener will do to a bunch of High School students!

    I was so far beyond LIVID.

  19. EricS September 3, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    @ Wendy: You should have taken him outside and let him pee on the bushes. I’d like to see them argue that. lol

  20. trb September 3, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    So I grew up out in the boonies. I remember being in HS (in the 90’s) during hunting season (fall for those non-hunters) and parents would pick up thier kids at lunch or right after school and head out. I was probably a junior or senior when there was a letter sent home from the admin stating that even if guns are in a gun rack they still cant be brought on school campus and please pick up your child first and then get your hunting gear. I can only imagine what would happen now if a parent did that. Luckily no one got in trouble. Also I grew up in Northern California and while some of the bigger areas were having issues with school violence, for us at the time it seemed very far away.

  21. Scott September 3, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    Lenore, thank you so much for calling attention to this extremely important issue.

  22. spacefall September 3, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    We had a security officer at my school, but I get the impression his job mostly consisted of clearing homeless people off our steps and giving people friendly legal advice occasionally. He mostly turned a blind eye to our school’s only “crime”, which was marijuana possession, unless someone was being obnoxious or dangerous about it.

    @EricS: “They have learned to be introverts, insecure, and confused.” I agree with most of what you said, but people don’t learn to be introverts, and introversion isn’t a dangerous or negative “condition”. Good evidence suggests that you are born one way or the other; the brain chemistry of introverts is simply such that being around people too much can drain them, rather than energizing them. Actually I did read one study that ignored extroverts are slightly more likely than introverts to express anger towards peers, because they are being ignored and *need* the attention, whereas introverts don’t — although I can’t find that study now, so take it with a grain of salt. Just, as an introvert myself, that came across as a little stereotypical and thoughtless.

  23. Rachael September 3, 2010 at 4:03 am #

    My senior year of high school a kid was shot and killed on the bus ramp right after school with 200+ kids milling around at the time. We had a county cop as a security officer on campus at all times, and he’d actually been TOLD that someone had a gun on campus that day, but was unable to prevent the shooting. IMO, these types of draconian measures just provide the parents and administrators with a false sense of security without actually benefitting anyone.

    Oh yeah, and this was pre-Columbine.

  24. EricS September 3, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    @Spacefall: Don’t mean to offend you, it wasn’t directed at you. I only speak through my own experiences. The introverts that I’ve grown up with or have known, whether they were born like that or not, were very sheltered. Their parents didn’t let them do a lot of things, always made sure to have a control of everything they did. Which included if they were allowed to have friends (the ones I knew of were told to come straight home after school), sign up for extra curricular activities, come out to play. As an example, there were two of these kids (separate times in my life between the ages of 13 – 17), that ended up being friends with me and my friends. I’ve asked them why they were so shy and held back. BOTH gave me the same answer…because they didn’t know how to talk to people and how to be around them. They learned to be untrusting and to avoid talking to people because they will just get hurt. Because they never really had friends. And like mentioned a number of times before, when a child grows up learning something at a very young age, they take that with them as they get older. So something that may seem off (not talking to people), could be completely a normal thing for them. I’m not saying your parents raised YOU wrong, or that there aren’t children who, no matter what the parents did, was just introverted. I’m saying there are children out there that are CONDITIONED to be introverted, than born as one.

    Just remember, unless your name is specifically mentioned about something, don’t take things personally with comments here. A lot of us speak from our own experiences and share it with everyone else. We have our opinions and share it with others here. I think we are all mature adults here that don’t intend to attack anyone else. Perhaps you need to keep more of an open mind. That how you see or feel things, may not actually be what you are seeing or feeling. Again, through experience, self and knowing others, insecurity makes one pretty defensive and takes things to literally and to heart. That’s what I learned when I finally got over my own insecurity back in my early 20s. I wasn’t an introvert by any means, but I was still pretty shy. But because I was Free-Range from the time I was 4, it helped me over the years to make a conscious effort to over come shyness and insecurity.

    By the way of those two that I mentioned, I’m still friends with one of them. He’s still kind of quiet, but he’s definitely come a long way from what he was growing up. He initiates conversations, picks up women, “throws” himself out there, and has a great time. Again, this was him re-conditioning himself to be more assertive and confident. We helped him along the way. That’s what friends are for. He’s a grown man, but his parents (more the mother these days) still treat and talk to him like he was still 12. He just ignores them when they do. A good thing he moved out years ago.

  25. Grimalkin September 3, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    EricS – I think the confusion comes from the interchangeability of “introvert” with words like “shy.” In general conversation, “introvert” can be used to mean anyone who doesn’t really like hanging out with people, but in psychology, “introvert” means something much more specific.

    To give you an example of the difference, many people will call me an “extrovert” because I enjoy being around people, I’m not shy, and I often strike up conversations with strangers. However, psychologically speaking, I’m in introvert because being around people makes me very tired and I can only handle it in small doses. When I’m done spending time with people, I need to go home and be by myself for a few hours to “recharge.” I can also quite easily go for a week or more on my own (as I have on holidays) without even noticing the lack of company.

    An extrovert who is sheltered and doesn’t learn how to talk to people might end up being friendless and a “loner,” but he will be very unhappy about it. They are still an extrovert regardless of whether they ever spend time with people or not. It’s one of the more stable personality traits we have.

    So we just have a communication failure 🙂

  26. Molly September 3, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    I think spacefall’s point is that there is nothing pathological about being an introvert. It is simply a difference in processing external stimuli. As an introvert, I can say that I’m neither shy nor a loner. But I’d much prefer to, say, go hang out with one or two friends at a quiet pub than go out with a group to a loud club. The latter would quickly make me tired, cranky, and just want to go home!

  27. Juliet Robertson September 3, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    It’s all rather depressing isn’t it? When are we going to move from an age of fear to one of freedom?

    I became a head teacher (School Principal) two years after the 1996 Dunblane shooting in Scotland. It still hurts remembering the class of children, most of whom were killed and most of the rest injured. I will never forget the doctor at Stirling hospital who watched with growing horror as child after child was admitted…who saw her own daughter dead on arrival. The class teacher was a wonderful woman, who died trying to protect her children. It was a tragedy. A terrible, awful tragedy.

    My first headship was of a school 30 miles from the police station that was the designated first response. For the police to arrive, the soonest they could get there would have been 40 minutes. No big deal, surely in a tiny community with just 50 residents? May be not for some, but the only community club for children to join was the local gun club. I signed a several gun licences, being an authority figure in the village. I trusted the people I signed for. One was the Chair of the School Board. Yes, there was always the risk that there would be an incident with a shotgun, but I felt that the benefits significantly outweighed the minimal risks of my decision. The people who needed shotgun licences were farmers, gamekeepers and shepherds who needed a gun for their work.

    In response to Dunblane, we now have “security” measures in place in most areas. Interestingly, the local authority where Dunblane is, refused to put in place security systems stating that they did not wish schools to become prisons.

    These measures are farcical. When someone arrives at a school with intent to cause harm, then this may happen unless the entire education budget is spent creating fortress schools. I know this because in my time as a head of 3 different schools over 8.5yrs, the security systems did not prevent:
    – an attempted abduction,
    -physically and verbally abusive parents and children,
    – a stranger walking into the playground brandishing machete and
    – a 7yr old child threatening another child with a penknife en route home from school
    – journalists hot footing parents outside the school gate after a visit from royalty.

    What did manage and/or minimise the impact of the above was effective communication and clear systems in place to deal with the incidents.

  28. spacefall September 3, 2010 at 4:45 am #

    @Grimalkin: That’s exactly what I meant. Introvert v. Extrovert is often used in society as “weirdo loner v. normal functioning human” but that’s not what it is at all. Like you, I have now learned to talk to people in a relaxed and casual fashion, make jokes with strangers, speak in class, and so on — but psychologically I am an introvert and always will be. My father, who hasn’t ever suffered from insecurity or shyness, is one of the most introverted people I know.

    @EricS: It sounds more like your friends “learned” a perhaps-mild form of social anxiety, which can be suffered by both introverts and extroverts (actually, in my experience in the social anxiety community, extroverts are much *more* likely to suffer because they *need* interaction and don’t get it). That is something you can be conditioned into, certainly, and something that a free-range attitude seems to help.

  29. Cindy Karnitz September 3, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    OMG- Where is the share this on Facebook widget? Our city’s school superintendant is being degraded for many things, one being her removal of the police from the high schools! I am off to read the full article on Salon, and then to purchase the book. Thank-you, once again, for being you!

  30. EricS September 3, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    Definitely a miscommunication then. I’ve always associated introverts as people who just plain doesn’t like being around people (for whatever reason), and extroverts are those that can’t live without being around people all the time. Both, to me, are the extreme ends of the spectrum.

    Like Grimalkin, I’m a pretty out going guy, love hanging out with friends, enjoy trying new things be it travel, food, or activity. But never classified myself as an extrovert. I don’t feel the need to always be around people. But I’ve never liked crowded places either. I have an issue with my space being “invaded” unnecessarily. Most likely due to a lot of people having no consideration (stepping on your feet, bumping into you with no apology, spilling stuff on you, etc…), some have serious b.o., or especially on a hot day they stick to you. lol And then there are times when I have my “me time”. I like the calmness of being on your own time table and not having to worry about anyone else. Yet, I never classified that as being an introvert either. I take it as I’ve learned who I am, and I know what I want, and I know who my friends are. That I’m confident that I won’t be judged when I do the things I want to do, and have the security to deal with things when I am.

    Regardless, it wasn’t an attack on spacefall or any other true introverts. But it’s NOT about us, it’s about the children. It can’t be argued that things start at home, with the parents as the first role models in the most impressionable time of a child’s life. What they learn from their parents is what they will keep with them for a very long time. And if not corrected, can change their adult lives as well.

  31. Scott September 3, 2010 at 5:48 am #

    Introversion means what spacefall says. Introverts find dealing with people tiring, but extroverts draw entergy from interactions with others.

    Introverts are 25% of the population, it’s a fundamental personality trait that you are born with. It’s not a result of mental illness or child abuse.

    Shyness can be related to introversion but is not the same. Most introverts learn to be outgoing and sociable as needed, but are tired after doing so. Thus most introverts eventually are not shy.

    I am not sure what term would be best to apply to children who as a result of seclusion and child abuse withdraws from society. Probably post traumatic stress disorder.

  32. April McCauley September 3, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Ha, our resource officer was supposedly there mostly for drug use prevention, and the rumor was that he was a big customer. After I graduated, I heard that he got in trouble for inappropriate contact of some kind with a female student. This was pre-Columbine, since I graduated in 1991.

    I think that “cracking down” may seem to make things quieter in some ways, but what it really does is set students and teachers/administration up as adversaries. No wonder the quality of education is declining. How could any student possibly be engaged in meaningful learning in that type of atmosphere?

    I also ABSOLUTELY agree that fear is growing at a viral rate and that is BAD.

  33. facie September 3, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    My kid attends a Catholic elementary school where every volunteer must 1. Read and sign a code of conduct. 2. Fill out an extensive online application, which includes questions such as where have you lived in the past 20 or 30 years (as if I can remember every address). 3. PAY for an FBI background check and/or child abuse clearance. 4. Take a two-hour class called “Protecting God’s Children” where you get to listen to former child predators talk (via a DVD).

    My husband, who has no religion, refuses to do the last thing (he was pretty unhappy about the first three and in fact we have not sent in for the one check). Therefore, he can NEVER volunteer at my kid’s school or even walk into the classroom to stay for a few minutes for a school party.

    I have no words to say how ridiculous this is and how mad it makes me.

  34. Donna September 3, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    I am a shy introvert and absolutely nothing my parents did made me that way. My mother is extroverted and free range. My father was more introverted but also free range. I was not secluded, protected or helicoptered. I simply have a temperament of being cautious and slow to warm up to new people. And while I enjoy being around people, even large groups at times, I need downtime to rejuvenate. My brother – raised by the same people although actually less free range – is an outgoing, extrovert.

    Shyness (actually termed as slow to warm up) and introversion are found in newborn babies. They are simply temperament and personality types. They are also not connected. I happen to be both slow to warm up and introverted but many introverts are not.

    I think that you also have a wrong view of being shy. I’m very social and I enjoy the company of others. I’m not insecure and am actually a trial attorney who speaks in front of audiences on a regular basis. I also find meeting and interacting with new people uncomfortable and have to force myself to get over it and do it. I don’t like being the center of attention and having things focused on me. I don’t make best friends on sight. I tend to be viewed as standoffish until you get to know me and then I’m warm and caring.

  35. Susan2 September 3, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Well, at least the security cameras helped the school staff figure out what happened to my kid’s violin when she left it in the hallway one day! :->

    I don’t see security guards as inherently good or bad. My daughter’s school has an actual city police officer assigned to the school full time, and he is awesome. He has won the city PTA award a couple of times. Besides supervising the SROs, he deals with discipline problems, works with families of problem kids (and because he’s a police officer, knows which kids have parents who are in trouble with the law.), teaches kids about how to deal with peer pressure, and chaperones evening activities in the school. For many kids, this is the first time they have had a positive interaction with a cop, even when they are being disciplined. Seeing the officer every day, they get to know a police officer as a person.

    The security guards enforce discipline, but they also joke around with the kids. Honestly, I am glad they are there. The school has had problems with kids cutting class, yelling in the hallways during class, confronting teachers, etc, and the guards ensure that instruction is disrupted as little as possible. They also make INTROVERTED (ha, ha) kids like my daughter feel more comfortable moving around the school. I do remember that middle school age kids can be pretty aggressive.

    One of the keys may be making sure that the guards are trained to respect the kids; that their job is to help the students to succeed more than to enforce rules. It just so happens that rules often have to be enforced for those kids to succeed.

  36. Holby September 3, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Lenore…Apparently we have to tell 18 year olds that electricity is dangerous…


  37. Lynn September 3, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    @Wendy. I’ve been to shops to find a restroom when my kids were little and couldn’t hold it. There has been more than one time that I’ve said, “Look. I have a three-year-old who is going to pee his pants. We can either use the staff restroom, or he can leave a puddle on the floor. The choice is yours.”

    We were able to use the restroom.

    I hadn’t been to a HS in years, and this Spring was asked to play the piano for a graduation. Oh my word. The kids you could tell were great kids. They had a reputation as a class for service and compassion, and you could tell in their faces and manner that they were good kids.

    There was a police officer always at the school. Every rehearsal she would harangh them about not doing anything stupid. I saw sereptitious eye rolling. I was doing the same thing.

    The principal was condescending and a a blowhard who treated these kids like, well, young children. It made me so mad. I do NOT want to ever go back.

  38. Scott September 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    “we have to tell 18 year olds that electricity is dangerous”

    Oh boy. Teen clips live electrical cables to his nipples and then sues the schools because he had no idea that could hurt. I’d like to be able to laugh, secure in the knowledge that the case will be dismissed and the parents and teen rebuked by the judge, but instead I am apprehensive that the claim might proceed somehow. I guess the connection to this discussion here is that the school’s safety measures of telling him electricity can shock him failed to make him safer?!

  39. Stacey JW September 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    facie- maybe if they spent half the time checking out their clergy as they spend harassing parents, there wouldn’t be such scandals. Was this in place before the whole scandal broke, or is it a new rule? Considering all the cover ups the Catholic Church has been involved in, maybe their time oils be better spent cleaning their own house……

    As far as schools turning into prisons, this is a trend that started, in some places, way before Columbine. DH is from a small to mid sized city in TX, and the stories he tells about his school horrified me. TX is known for this, I hated living there (even though I was in Austin, a supposedly liberal city) because of the sheer # of cops and their love of enforcing the law to the point it was insane. And tolerance for his type of atmosphere starts in school. DH didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to see 23cops on a 7mile ride to work, through a safe suburb. He also thought that the use of zero tolerance type of policing and constant surveillene were normal. Only when we moved out of TX did he realize that the overzealous law enforcement he grew up with was abnormal and made for a stressful life. even when you aren’t doing anything illegal, its stressful to be treated like a criminal, guilty until proven innocent.

    And the addition of all these “safety features” does not make school any safer, but sure creates a hostile environment. This is where kids learn to disrespect the rule of law, because it is so obviously unfair and ridiculous. To me, learning to hate cops and the laws they enforce is the most harmful effect of creating fortress schools with zero tolerance policies. In order to live in society, we all need to abide by the rules, but when we see rules being used in ways that do more harm than good, we start to resent them. For example, I know cops are people too and are (usually) there to protect the public, but I harbor a distrust of them because of the way I have seen them treat others- starting in HS. They have to enforce laws that are flawed, but so many don’t bother to look at the bigger picture before arresting someone. I’m not even going to comment onn deliberately vicious actions by police, usually regarding a minority…….

    Sorry for the rant, but when kids grow up thinking that its ok to be videotaped at all times, and that its normal to have heavy handed authority lording over you every day, they become adults that are not aware that they don’t have to live this way. Fear and distrust is no way to live, but we are promoting it every time we allow schools to turn into prison zones.

    I have never been one for home schooling my own kids (when old enough), but what I am seeing now makes it more appealing. I don’t want my kids to go to a prison, where no one uses common sense anymore.

  40. Clif September 3, 2010 at 7:01 pm #

    Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow, is a good young-adult novel that grapples with modern issues of privacy & security. Electronic copies are available free online – read it and if you like it recommend it to friends and buy a copy for your school(s).

  41. Rebecca O September 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    I have heard some really stupid things because of zero tolerance before 9-11. My friends brought a knitting needle to scratch inside her class it was deemed a weapon and confiscated and she was give an in school suspension.

    There was also a case at a local elementary school where a kid gave out “candy” to his friends turned out to be tums or something. The dumb thing was all the kids who took the candy got in trouble including the one who told the teacher that it was being handed out and he didn’t think it was candy.

  42. Grimalkin September 3, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Speaking of zero tolerance, here’s the case of a girl who, when she was 13, brought some aspirin with her to school and ended up being strip searched (without her or her parents’ consent): http://www.talkleft.com/story/2009/4/20/34813/7220

    It was recently all over the news because the case had gone before the supreme court.

  43. Dave September 3, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    I love the fact that conventional wisdom says we need more survailance to keep us safe even when it was in place at Columbine and it did not stop the murders. It was the kind of thing that happens rarely and is unpreventalbe. I know we don’t like to think of things as unpreventable but that’s life.

    To much time spent on trying to prevent the unpreventable and we start to loss our freedoms and the joy of life.

  44. Sara A. September 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    I’m 25, I went to LaGuardia for the Arts in NYC and graduated in 2003. We had security guards that roamed the school and security cameras. My friends and I could never figure out what they actually did. It seemed to us that the guards just wandered the hallway and showed up at the 7th or 8th floor bathroom just in time for the kids that were smoking pot to have left. They never busted us for cutting class or not being in an approved area during lunch or any of the minor bouts of mischief we got in to over the years. In fact, we used to make faces at the cameras and give them the finger.

    Now that I think about it, the one thing I remember security doing is confiscating a friend’s mint tea and aspirin because they looked like drugs. She was almost in trouble until they smelled the contents of the bag and noticed the “bayer” imprint on the pills.

  45. Steve September 3, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    Kupchik misses the elephant in the room … er…I mean, in the schools.

    And of course the schools, themselves, and law inforcement also continue to blind themselves to the reality that one of the major causes of school shootings is not bullying. It’s the side effects of psychiatric medications.

    Bullying has existed since time began.

    Guns have existed for a very long time.

    People have lived in poverty since the beginning of time.

    High stress has existed since time began.

    School shootings did not exist back when I went to school – Or when my parents went to school.

    Kupchik mentions prescription drugs, but don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s saying schools have a zero tolerance for psychiatric meds. He is no doubt talking about the zero tolerance that schools have for students “dealing in” medications illegally. The truth is: Schools are often THE major drug pushers when it comes to psych meds, because they incorrectly believe these drugs only help and have no negative side effects.

    One place to read about this evidence is on the website of Dr. Peter Breggin – (Breggin.com)


    Our entire society is living spellbound by psychiatric meds. In search of a quick fix to personal problems, kids are doped up on meds that carry side effects almost identical to illegal drugs:

    side effects like aggression, anxiety, abnormal thoughts and dreams, suicidal thinking, and bizarre behavior and violence.

    A good article about Our Psychiatric Civilization is:


  46. Scott September 4, 2010 at 2:06 am #

    Steve’s right on that one. In nearly every case of school shooters the students were on SSRI drugs, and these have a known side effect of psychosis.

    There’s also strong evidence (from reading their blogs, myspace, etc, even one of the Columbine kids way back then had a web page) that many of the school shooters were bipolar aka manic depressive, and not depressive, in which case SSRI scripts were a misdiagnosis.

    Not just schools are affected by this, but colleges, workplaces and homes. Andrea Yates who drowned her children did so under the advice of voices in her head that appeared after she started taking escalating doses of psychiatric drugs.

    Those who think the drugs can also be beneficial should read “Anatomy of an Epidemic” by Robert Whitaker, where he documents decades of studies that show that long term most of these psychiatric drugs cause permanent brain damage and actually create the conditions they are supposed to be treating.

  47. baby-paramedic September 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm #

    I am an introvert. And I am fairly sure all of my siblings (7) (so, relatively same upbringing) are all extroverts.

    And at this exact moment I am feeling pro-security guard. Had an excellent pair today that helped out with a sick patient. Competent and polite. However, if you asked me last night I would have had a vastly different opinion after dealing with three in relation to different patient.

    My personal opinion of security guards is for the most part they are there for the look, rather than actually doing anything. They keep a few in line, and a few feel safer.
    Sadly, it is a profession that tends to attract the wrong kind of people.

    And back to the story: It is a fine line we walk raising our children to be functional members of society, yet not mindlessly follow society. Sometimes those two ideals battle.


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