Friday, January 21, 2011

When guns come to your kid's school

I was in Toronto yesterday, but my trusty BlackBerry kept feeding me regular updates of what was going on back home. The one that got my attention was the report of a lockdown at a high school - Mother Teresa Secondary - not a 10-minute drive from my house. All doors and windows were locked and the lights were shut off after witnesses reported seeing someone with a gun on campus.

Our kids don't go there, but my first thought was that it could just as easily have been my kids' school. It can be anyone's school, anywhere, anytime. Welcome to the modern age.

I put it out of my mind as I went back into my meetings, but as I headed through intense snow and traffic on my way home, my BlackBerry once again chirped. Patrick Maloney, a reporter for the London Free Press, wanted my perspective on how kids with cell phones and smartphones can affect how events like this play out. He wanted to know if I felt it was a good or a bad thing for kids to be texting in the middle of a crisis. Here's the result*:
For one technology expert, the Mother Teresa incident underscores the positives of letting cellphones in -- though he cautions it's not always a good thing.

"In many cases, in crisis situations, the facts people don't know can cause panic," said Carmi Levy, a London-based technology analyst.

"If properly used, (social media technology) can shed light on events and help people navigate them more easily."

But they can also spread rumours, he notes.

"That's the dark side of texting and social media . . . there are no checks and balances," he said. "It's just as easy to distribute bad information."

The full article, Students text to spread lockdown news quickly, may be found here.

Your turn: So what do you think? Do social media/texting-savvy teens help or hinder matters when bad stuff happens at school?

One more thing: Next Thematic - new theme, blue - will launch tonight at 7:00 Eastern. A little late, I know, but it's been a busy week. Thank you for your understanding.

*I lied, make that two: I wore a headset, Officer Bob.

9 comments:

bruce said...

i think a large part of or societal woes stem from the fact that we are over stimulated and over informed.

much of the stimulation has made us even more unable to control our impulses.

carring a gun to school is an impulsive thing.

and over informed of too many untruth and rumors

Bruce
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Matt Roth said...

When Sheraton College was locked down a few years ago with a gun threat, my little sister was on campus and in class. We spent the entire afternoon messaging back and forth via Facebook (because her phone was dead but she had her laptop and WiFi), her keeping me apprised on the situation from their vantage and me keeping her apprised with media reports. It also gave me the opportunity to try and keep her calm as her entire class was hiding underneath their desks in a dark classroom, unsure of what kind of danger might be lurking in the halls.

In the end it turned out to be a false alarm, but having that connection allowed me notify my folks and keep them calm through the ordeal with first hand information from my sister - rather than them finding out from media reports which were, in many cases, quite eccentric.

It all worked out in the end, but if it weren't for her ability to reach me via SM, I think our whole family would have been in much worse shape that afternoon.

Karen S. said...

my feelings about kids with cell phones, especially at school, just one more way to cause distractions and another way to start the rumor mill...and remember back in school, well maybe it never happened in yours, but when someone wanted a day off/or a break from school, someone would call in a bomb threat, or pull the fire alarm...I see it at work too, with adults and often getting too many messages they shouldn't while working....one girl got a text from her aunt sorry about her grandfather's death, but this poor girl didn't even know he died yet! It was tragic! I've seen more hardships over cell phones...

Kalei's Best Friend said...

omg, there must be something in the air... two h.s. in the Los Angeles school district were locked down as well... The ironic thing is that parents were outraged because of the emergency kits that every school has and is to be used in situations like these or in case of earthquake... I have never seen such immature and ignorance.. They claimed their kids went w/out food and bathroom privleges.. Little do they know the SAFETY of their precious ones was at stake.. As we all know as long as water is available (which it was in the kits) no one will die of thirst or hunger...and seeing how there is an obesity issue among h.s. students, I am sure they wouldn't have missed a few calories... Sorry for the rant but ignorance is unbelievable and unacceptable when it comes to adults..

Chanel said...

My sophomore year of high school my mom dropped my three sisters off at school, and then the two of us left for a doctor's appointment I had in regards to my migraines. Ten minutes after we arrived at the doctor's office my three sisters send us text messages saying the middle school and high school, which were connected through the cafeteria, were evacuating to the football field down the hill because there was a bomb threat. A small town school, the high school had four hundred students, the middle school three fifty. The offered constant updates about the police and dogs, and reassured us that they were safe. My mother never appreciated the cell phone bills she paid every month four the five of us to have cell phones before that. She never complained about it again.

The irony, however, is that the bomb threat came from a senior boy who called the threat in from his cell phone so that he didn't have to take a Spanish exam that he hadn't studied for. He wouldn't have been caught, except that he called in a bomb threat the next day, too. If he hadn't had the cell phone in the first place, the whole situation could have been avoided.

So cell phones, like all technology, are helpful or harmful depending on who is using them, and for what.

lissa said...

After the Dawson shooting, there was no doubt in my mind (though at the time, neither of my kids had a cell phone) that my kids would have, and bring their cells to school if they so chose. The talk radio shows were - naturally - focused on the phenomena that happened during that horrific event, and many commentators, more than I can even recount, used some variant of, "if you ever questioned having given your child the cell phone they had, this incident should put your mind at ease." The kids who had no cell phones were able to instantly assure their terrified parents that they had made it out and were either injured, or not. The kids with cell phones were able to do the same and were valuable resources - as well as compassionate companions - to those without.

The tragedy I remember hearing was that the parents of the girl who was killed - Anastasia de Sousa - had been trying to phone her since hearing of the incident. And from one account, the crime scene investigators were able to hear her cell phone ringing incessantly. My heart still hurts, just typing that, but it is part of the downside of technology too: when we are so used to the instant access, the lack of same lends fear - sometimes, tragically, for a real reason.

I don't think there is more of a downside than a benefit, and though false rumors can cause unnecessary fear, I'd rather be in touch than not.

Pat Tillett said...

I suppose you heard about this one last week. Kid drops backpack that just happens to have a handgun in it. Handgun discharges and two kids are injured by the same shot. The kids says he takes the gun to school for protection!

We are sinking fast...

Jules~ said...

I read this in the morning as my day started and have been chewing on it ever since. I have no conclusions though.
The high school around the corner from us has security cameras and a metal detector for the students to pass through.
Sadly, I recently learned that our city is ranked as one of the highest for human trafficking and I was just told last night that my daughter's high school is said to be the hub for our side of town.

I know none of that answers your thought provoking question of the day. But they are the worries floating around in my mind. It is so frustrating to me how things continually escalate and our children have so much more to deal with than we did.

A Paperback Writer said...

Our school's policies for emergencies are very well-thought out, and cell phone use is written into the policies already. Our district policy is no cell phones from first bell to last bell. period. Teachers confiscate the phones. This would be true during a lock down, as massive overload of the system with cell phone use during a real emergency could cause problems.

And lockdowns aren't all so uncommon. Someone THOUGHT they saw a gun. Did the person enter the school? What's the rest of the story?

Our school has gone into lockdown before for a store robber headed in our direction (as reported by police). By locking down, we prevented danger and the kids were never in any.
We were in CONSTANT LOCKDOWN during the entire 2002 winter olympics in SLC. Teachers were assigned to give up our consultation periods to stand guard at locked doors, letting into the building only kids or adults with correct passes. All others had to go to the front door and pass a police check. This went on for over 2 weeks.
We've also gone into lockdown to keep kids in class and out of the halls while EMTs worked with an asthma attack student in the main area and wanted no interference.

Honestly, the teachers at that school obviously had lack of control if they let kids freak out and text during a lockdown. They need a better system with more control if they hope to keep kids safe when it's really a scary situation.


And, Jules, kids have more to deal with than we did? Really? They have terrorists; we had the Cold War. Sure, the bomb was never dropped, but we didn't know that then. Drugs were available to us, too. So was teen pregnancy. Now we have zero tolerance for bullies and sexual harassment. When I was in school, victims had to "take it."
And my parents dealt with the Depression and WWII. The draft took boys who turned 18 BEFORE they graduated from high school. My dad was fighting the Japanese at an age when most of today's kids are lazing on their butts playing video games. Three of my mom's classmates had their diplomas awarded to their parents, as the sons were already DEAD by graduation day.
Sorry about the rant, but I strongly disagree that today's kids have it "so hard." In fact, I think they have it much easier than any preceding generation.