Apr 04 2008

Alumnus speaks about school violence: Expert says schools are safer than normally perceived

from Carl Smith, The Reflector Mississippi State University alumnus David May discussed the causes, preferences and sources of gun carrying in youths with students Thursday. "Kids and Guns: Why They Do It" was sponsored by the sociology, anthropology and social work department. May received a master's degree from MSU in 1994, followed by a doctorate in sociology, with an emphasis in criminology in 1997. He currently teaches at Eastern Kentucky University. From the beginning of his presentation, May dispelled many popular beliefs that schools are more violent now than they have ever been. He said school shootings are a rare occurrence. "These incidents do not happen as much as you would think," he said. "People are always telling me that they're glad they grew up in the decades before now because schools were much safer unlike today. That's just not true." May said in the 2006-2007 academic year, there were eight students killed by other students in school shootings nationally. "The idea that school violence is rampant and that everyone should home-school their kids is something that is so far from the truth in 2008, that it is startling that so many people believe it," he said. May said children are at a very low risk of being involved in gun crime during school hours. "Juveniles are more likely to commit a crime between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.," he said. "In reality, kids are safer at school during school hours than after school." National media outlets have helped to contribute to the misconception that school violence is at an all-time high, but are not at complete fault, May said. "The main criticism I have of the media is the disproportionate amount of negative reporting than positive," May said. "If we had more reporting about the incidents that were controlled, where kids spoke up to teachers and parents, that in itself could help bring that climate of responsibility and safety to many other schools." May suggested potential ideas that could further reduce gun violence and crime with youths, including increasing cooperation between law enforcement agencies, increasing direct deterrence projects and reducing the amount of gang membership. He also proposed that improving unsafe neighborhoods could reduce the amount of youths carrying guns. "These kids need to live in neighborhoods that make them feel like they don't have to or don't want to carry a gun," May said. "We cannot take guns from kids and tell them that they can live safely in society until we can give them assurance that, by taking their guns, they can live safely in society." Peter Wood, professor and interim director of the department of sociology, anthropology and social work, said May's research is important due to the severity of the topic. "You've got to consider that this deals with kids running around with guns and killing each other," Wood said. "I'd consider that a pretty important topic." Freshman pre-accounting major Michelle Hawkins said May's presentation was very informative. "You can tell just by listening to him that he's a very smart man," Hawkins said. She said there is a large need to discuss gun violence within academic settings due to many of the recent tragic shootings that have occurred. "It is very important that we discuss these issues here, especially after what happened at Virginia Tech," Hawkins said. "We need to have more people like May going around and discussing this with students. More people need to attend talks like these." Add This Bookmark

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Apr 04 2008

Bill could allow guns on campus

from Emily Holden, The Daily Reveille Watch the video A bill filed with the Louisiana legislature touches on a topic sensitive to University students concerned about their safety. House Bill 199, introduced by Rep. Ernest Wooton, of Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Charles parishes, would authorize concealed handgun permit holders to carry guns on college campuses. The bill has been assigned to the House Criminal Justice Committee. It aims to limit a college's authority to prohibit permit-holders from exercising their licenses on campus. It allows universities to establish rules about storing firearms in dorms. The bill would also allow permit-holders to carry weapons on elementary, middle and high school campuses. "I think that it would be a huge mistake for that bill to be passed because there are certain places that a gun would not be recommended," said LSUPD spokesman Maj. Lawrence Rabalais. Rabalais said allowing more guns on campus would increase the number of accidental shootings. He said it would cause confusion for LSUPD responders trying to discriminate between suspects and bystanders with guns. "It's not a constitutional issue for us. It's a safety issue," he said. JP Gwaltney, head of the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus LSU chapter and mechanical engineering junior, said students do not realize that in everyday life there are people carrying guns around them. "I feel since [the campus] is where I spend most of my time, it doesn't make any sense not to allow me to carry [a gun] there," Gwaltney said. Gwaltney said he wants to carry a gun for self-defense. "The same reason that I wear my seat belt in the car - in case I get in an accident," Gwaltney said. Gwaltney said in previous school shootings, the police were not able to arrive at the scene before the shooting was over. He said concealed carry licensing is a strenuous process, and it is not easy to obtain a permit. "It would be a deterrent if someone knew there could be someone in a class that could fight back," Gwaltney said. Everett Baudean, LSU Firearm Rights Coalition president, said there are examples of students using personal firearms to thwart school shootings. He said the Appalachian School of Law shooting in 2002 was ended when two students retrieved guns from their cars and subdued the shooter. Neither fired shots, he said. Rabalais said LSUPD response time is less than one minute. Rabalais said the training for a concealed carry permit is not as extensive as the training for a police officer to carry a weapon. LSUPD repeats firearm training twice a year, and the officers participate in seminars about how to keep control of their gun during a confrontation, he said. Baudean said "every permit holder he knows personally practices their shooting much more than is required of law enforcement officers." Baudean said firearm-free zones have never stopped a school shooting. "If, for instance, a person is planning to commit a mass murder/suicide, would that person be deterred by the criminal penalties of bringing a gun into a firearm-free zone?" Baudean said. House Rep. Rick Gallot, of Bienville, Claiborne and Lincoln parishes, introduced a bill this past year that would have closed a state legislation loophole allowing students to have licensed guns in dorm rooms or automobiles. Gallot said he discovered the loophole when he was consulted by the former Grambling State University police chief and the Lincoln Parish district attorney. Gallot said allowing more guns on campus would provide additional challenges for police. "Certainly, we've seen the result of what can happen when the wrong student has a gun on campus, and I don't know that expanding the current ability to have weapons will aid and prevent anything bad from happening," Gallot said. He said having a concealed carry license does not necessarily prepare someone to react to violence. "It's one thing to go to the range and be qualified to have a permit, but a whole 'nother ball game when you're facing the barrel of a gun and trying to react," Gallot said. "At the range, targets don't shoot back." With memories of school shootings at Louisiana Technical College and Virginia Tech fresh in their minds, most students are skeptical about the bill. Colleen Allerton, dietetics junior, said allowing licensed carriers to bring guns on campus would increase premeditated and spontaneous acts of violence. "I think it's a horrible idea," Allerton said. Allerton said she is worried people with guns will not be able to control themselves. "This should just be a place for learning - not guns," Allerton said. Ankoma Hardy, industrial engineering junior, said allowing guns on campus would "make it feel more like a war zone than a learning environment." Baudean said those with permits are "peaceful, responsible citizens who abhor violent crime, and this is why they choose to arm themselves." Baudean said fear of the prospect of a fellow classmate being armed is out of ignorance and naivete about firearms. Hardy said his main concern is he cannot know the mental state of the person sitting next to him in class. Jim McClain, president of Jim's Firearms on Siegen Lane, said the concealed carry permit process includes pistol or revolver training, a state police background check, a mental health check by a doctor and finger printing. An applicant must be at least 21. "It's a lengthy process, and you have to have a clean background," McClain said. He said it is extremely unlikely that someone intending to harm students would slip through the process. Aaron Yglesias, industrial engineering junior, said he is not sure students are responsible enough to know how to use guns. "I'd rather leave it to the authorities," Yglesias said. Baudean did not agree. "While the efforts of law enforcement are always heroic and admirable in instances of school shootings, it is beyond the ability and scope of law enforcement to prevent such crimes, only to respond to them," he said. Add This Bookmark

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Apr 04 2008

What does it mean to be civil? 10 rules

from Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun Here are somes forms of engagement to consider for creating a civil society: 1. Pay attention to what's going on. Steve Jobs 2. Practise compassion. Dalai Lama 3. Act. Angelina Jolie 4. Hold individuals accountable for what they do. Beverley McLachlin 5. Be clear in stating your case. Martin Luther King 6. Listen. Oprah Winfrey 7. Be prepared to change. Barack Obama 8. Avoid violence (physical and emotional). Gandhi 9. Remain genuine. Keith Richards 10. Treat others with the respect with which you'd like to be treated. Jesus - - - Making a difference for the good of all is no easy task. It takes courage and determination, but many extraordinary and ordinary people do it. The real achievers have been compassionate and respectful -- but not always polite - - - Teenage boys and girls in Canada are more likely than ever to bully, cheat, lie, steal, destroy others' belongings, intimidate teachers and engage in aggressive and disruptive behaviour. The Vanier Institute for the Family, which compared teenage civility over the past three decades, didn't just blame the disturbing state of affairs on young people, however. The respected institute attributed teens' lack of civility to many things: Parents working longer hours, the eroding of communities, the decline of religion, rising stress on everyone and youth spending unparalleled amounts of time accessing television, the Internet and video games. Dinner conversation these days is filled with anecdotes lamenting insensitive clerks, increased jaywalking, people failing to give up their seats on buses, food-gobbling, vitriolic blogging, workplace abruptness, harsh airline protocol, dour demeanours, road rage, ringing cellphones and the gradual disappearance of the phrase, "Thank you." The ultimate purpose of politeness, much like a smile, is to make people feel more comfortable. Politeness oils the wheels of social cohesion. Good manners, if based on genuine interest, make people feel welcome. When politeness disappears, we don't feel so safe any more. It is common today to complain about a general decline in "politeness," which is also called "civility" -- although there are often-blurry distinctions between the meanings of the words. As we'll see, we need more than politeness to create a civil society. But etiquette is not a bad place to start. However, rather than scapegoating kids as the main source of society's possibly increasing impoliteness, let's look at the world adults have created for teenagers. The typical child now sees thousands of murders a year with the help of the media. Self-absorbed, me-first behaviour is celebrated on TV, in movies and advertising. Ordinary people are modelling the self-absorption and bad manners of people with status, argues Redford Williams in his new book, In Control: No More Snapping at Your Family, Sulking at Work, Steaming in the Grocery Line, Seething in Meetings, Stuffing Your Frustration. The so-called rudeness epidemic, says Williams, flows from heightened stress and looser inhibitions. "The national discourse of this country is attack, attack, attack," says Williams. Reality television stars, top athletes, media personalities and political leaders regularly insult, trade obscenities or tell anyone in disagreement to "shut up." With a loss of politeness, meanness is seen not only as acceptable, it signifies power and influence, Williams says, speaking mainly of his country, the United States. Such impolite behaviour can even have serious economic and international implications. A British study found one of the main reasons Europeans weren't travelling to the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001, was the country's "sarcastic, suspicious, patronizing, and downright rude" customs officials, as well as the U.S. government's increasingly aggressive military forays. However, before we wring our hands in despair about the sad state of this supposedly more impolite world, we need a reality check -- because from ancient Greece to Victorian times, some people have always complained about uncouth behaviour. Politeness is hard to measure, with even Vanier Institute research professor Anne-Marie Ambert admitting bad manners, aggression and me-first ethics are not as easy to study statistically as criminal behaviour -- which, paradoxically, is declining in Canada. In light of a poll suggesting 70 per cent of North Americans believe people are ruder now than they were 20 years ago, Reader's Digest recently tested the conventional wisdom by gathering some informal evidence. The international magazine had researchers in 35 countries perform three politeness experiments. They tried to find out whether people open doors for anonymous researchers and help them pick up a pile of "accidentally" dropped papers, and whether clerks would say "Thank you" for their purchases. New Yorkers, despite their infamous reputations, turned out to be the most polite in the world, followed by the residents of Zurich, Toronto and Berlin. The least polite dwell in Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Bucharest and Mumbai. In a separate politeness survey by the magazine, Canadians in general performed well, particularly the citizens of Moncton, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria. Despite its unscientific nature, the Readers Digest survey counters the widespread fear that everyone has suddenly become grotesquely rude. That's important because the main excuse people usually cite for their own thoughtless behaviour is: "Everybody else is doing it." So maybe we can't simply blame our own impoliteness on others. We need to put the politeness "crisis" in perspective for many reasons. The main one is that forging a civil society goes far beyond being pleasant and nice. There is more to creating a vibrant democracy than following the social graces of your culture, such as avoiding putting your elbows on the table or chewing gum. Sometimes the rules of etiquette are simply another means to control people. We need to reclaim the word "civility," which was originally linked to the concept of "civilization." By the mid-20th century, however, "civility" had dwindled to a genteel term for nominal courtesy, says linguist Geoff Nurnberg. CIVILITY RUNS DEEPER He cites how American establishment figures in the 1960s would stress "civility" to marginalize reformers and protesters, particularly unkempt hippies and loud radicals. While I'm all for politeness, civility is much deeper and important. Civility points to the qualities necessary to create a better society, a thriving democratic civilization where everyone feels connected and engaged. Sociologist Robert Putnam wrote in his famous book, Bowling Alone, about the decline of American civil society, as marked by decreasing membership in voluntary associations (such as bowling leagues, even while the number of bowlers has been increasing). Noting North Americans' reduced involvement in community and political life, Putnam maintains a healthy society is characterized by lively exchanges both between people who are alike and those who are not alike. He has recently become concerned about widespread suspicion between ethnic communities in the U.S. A truly civil society, Putnam believes, is one in which people feel strong social connections and involvement in the wider society, reflected in such things as high voter turnouts. What should be the rules of engagement to foster a truly civil society? They should generally follow the rules of a dialogue. That requires a modicum of politeness with lots of eye-contact, handshaking and definitely no spitting. That way everyone will feel welcome at the table of competing ideas and beliefs. Beyond such basic politeness, however, we should have a broad understanding of what it means to be "civil" in a civil society. I always remember John Dixon, a Capilano College philosophy instructor and activist with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, talking about how democracy is "messy." DISCOMFORT IS NECESSARY While expressing one's opinions and passions in the democratic tumult of competing ideas and values, people's feelings and self-interest can sometimes be threatened. But it's not bad to be made to feel uncomfortable. Often it's necessary for things to change. In other words, the creation of a truly civil society sometimes requires people making intemperate, even critical remarks -- about neighbours, media figures, politicians and corporate leaders -- or doing impolite things, like staging protests. Still, I'm often impressed by veteran agents of social betterment, like Dixon, who can join the fray and work for the common good while remaining, for lack of a better word, "polite." Such people illustrate my theory that it's often the most radical people who are the most respectful. As a result, they're also the most effective at making good things happen. Even though many people think of the Dalai Lama as one of the most polite and affable people in the world, his Vancouver-based biographer, Victor Chan, emphasizes the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people believes in much more than being a nice guy. "Politeness to him is overrated," says Chan, who returned in late March from two weeks in India with the exiled Tibetan leader, while Chinese troops were cracking down on protesters in Tibet. "He is very aware of the expression, 'Within the smile there is a knife.' " Instead of emphasizing the value of politeness, Chan says the Dalai Lama believes "the most important thing is what is in your heart, what is your motivation." As China tries to put on a friendly face to host the Summer Olympics, Chan says the Dalai Lama knows people often act politely to achieve their own ends. Instead of expressing that kind of politeness, the Dalai Lama strives to treat everyone with "equanimity," in other words, equally and genuinely. The Tibetan leader acts the same with enemies as friends, Chan says, citing how the famed Buddhist monk sometimes told him he was asking "stupid" and "repetitive" questions as they worked on their book, Wisdom for Forgiveness. At age 73, and wary of wasting his time, the Dalai Lama can be "very blunt," said Chan -- including with people in high station. When the Dalai Lama meets with U.S. President George W. Bush, he feels warmly toward him, Chan says. But he will not shirk from telling Bush the U.S.-led war against Iraq illustrates how violence always leads to a "dead end." Confronted with the Chinese government's brutal crackdown on Tibetan protesters, Chan said the Dalai Lama has been disturbed and saddened. The monk genuinely feels warmth for the Chinese people, Chan said. But he is determined to boldly resist the Chinese government's oppression. The Dalai Lama is not the only leader who believes that building civil society goes far beyond merely being polite, doing what is socially expected. With mainstream Buddhists often criticized for politely opting out of society to pursue psychological enlightenment, the Dalai Lama supported the 1987 establishment of the organization, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. It was founded by Thai Buddhist Sulak Sivaraksa, whose motto is, "Loyalty demands dissent." Other members include Thich Nhat Hanh, the peace-activist Buddhist teacher from Vietnam. These Buddhists are continuing the tradition of resistance inspired by Vietnamese monks who famously self-immolated during the 1960s Vietnam war to protest against government brutality -- a decidedly impolite thing to do. CIVIL + DISOBEDIENCE Many people from spiritual and secular humanist traditions have shown the same kind of non-violent resistance. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, for instance, added a challenging twist to the concept of "civil" when they combined it with "disobedience." Gandhi, King and others were prepared to peacefully break unjust laws and suffer the consequences. They angered many with their "uppityness," risking their lives. I suspect the people who have the most long-lasting impact are those who diligently push their agenda in a gracious manner. Like Sivaraksa, who was exiled from Thailand, they believe "Radical transformation of society requires personal and spiritual change . . . that all comes back to being less and less selfish." Some other inspired reformers who have tried, as the saying goes, "to be the change you want to see in the world" have included: Jesus, Buddha, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr, John Cobb, Martin Buber, Elie Wiesel, Dorothy Day, John Lennon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- and even former Canadian politicians such as Mike Harcourt, Preston Manning and Lloyd Axworthy. They all have cared deeply, in their own ways, about making a difference, and they've pursued it in a respectful way. They can be blunt in their truth-telling, with some people finding their approach troubling or even offensive. But being polite -- in a wallflower, conformist, do-what-society-expects way -- is not necessarily the best way to contribute to a great civilization, nor even a great local community. Add This Bookmark

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Apr 03 2008

Guns on College Campuses

from News1 KAUZ Lawmakers nationwide are responding to shootings on college campuses,by possibly allowing students and teachers to carry weapons. Texas is one of the numerous states looking into the option, that's already in place in Utah. Right now it's up to individual colleges to decide if weapons are allowed on campus, but lawmakers are talking about over-riding the rules. That would then allow those with a license to carry a concealed weapons to do so on campus. However Texas Lawmakers want input. One issue is protection from school shootings, the other is the rights of citizens who have permits to carry guns. "We do allow it in the State of Texas, so at what point have you made it so that the permits are useless?" said (D) State Representative David Farabee. Lawmakers are asking several questions about this issue. For example if guns are allowed on campus, should they be kept in vehicles? "If there is a question people might have guns in there cars you then have a high risk of burglary break-in's because people break in looking for guns." said MSU Police Chief Mike Hagy. Or allowed in classrooms? "Certainly there are those who have permits who would say that's something they want. I would confidently say a vast majority of school administrators would disagree something legislatures will work out." said Farabee. Even though guns are not allowed at Midwestern State, officials are not taking a stand on this issue until the process is further along. A public hearing will be held in Austin in late May or early June. The House Committee on Law Enforcement will then put a report together and present it to legislatures in January. Officials say the earliest the law could change is September of 2009. Add This Bookmark

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Apr 03 2008

Domestic violence policies needed: Inquest highlights Ontario’s need for workplace violence laws

from Shannon Klie, HRReporter.com The recommendations of a coroner’s inquest into the stabbing death of a nurse at a Windsor, Ont., hospital will fuel the fire for legislation explicitly banning workplace violence in Ontario, according to a labour lawyer. “The heat’s being turned up in Ontario for employers to take responsibility and accountability for workplace violence,” said Barbara Humphrey, a partner at Stringer Brisbin Humphrey in Barrie, Ont. In November 2005, anesthesiologist Marc Daniel stabbed Lori Dupont, a nurse at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital, and then killed himself. Daniel, who also worked at the hospital, and Dupont had been romantically involved but had broken up in February 2005. During a three-month coroner’s inquest, the jury heard how the hospital allowed Daniel to continue practicing, despite complaints about Daniel’s threatening behaviour, such as breaking a nurse’s finger and destroying hospital equipment, and Dupont’s complaints that Daniel harassed her. In December, the jury made 26 recommendations, including that the Ontario Ministry of Labour amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include domestic violence, abuse and harassment as factors warranting investigation at work. The jury also suggested protecting employees from emotional and psychological harm. “We received the recommendations from the coroner’s jury and they’re under review,” said Bruce Skeaff, spokesperson for the ministry. Seven other provinces already have workplace violence legislation in place and Saskatchewan, Quebec and Manitoba include psychological harassment. “Usually Ontario, on employment issues, leads the pack, so it’s interesting to me that we don’t have this legislation,” said Humphrey. Since most other jurisdictions just finalized their legislation in the last two years, it’s only a matter of time before Ontario follows suit. she said. As an interim measure, the Ministry of Labour has directed Occupational Health and Safety inspectors to focus on workplace violence during inspections, said Humphrey. That includes assessing factors for violence (such as working with money or dealing with the public), whether there are precautions in place, whether workers have been informed of the risks and whether supervisors and workers have been trained on strategies to address workplace violence, she said. “The Ministry of Labour initiative does introduce, even without legislation, very clear employer responsibilities and accountabilities for workplace violence,” said Humphrey. “We’re at the point where every employer has a significant interest in having a violence prevention program.” The jury heard from witnesses who saw Daniel harass Dupont but didn’t speak up because they didn’t know how to handle domestic violence at work. To prevent that kind of inaction, the jury recommended extensive domestic violence education and training for employees, health-care professionals and the public so they can recognize the signs and know what steps to take. The jury also recommended hospitals have a policy to address domestic violence and abuse or harassment at work. Employers should treat domestic violence — be it between two employees or from someone outside the organization — the same as any workplace violence, said Humphrey. “If it’s spilling over into the workplace, even if its roots are outside the workplace, the employer should take responsibility and accountability,” she said. Part of the problem in the Dupont case was Daniel was given too much slack for his behaviour because he held a position of power as a physician and because, as a physician, he was not employed by the hospital, said Humphrey. To address those issues, the jury recommended a review of all Ontario hospital bylaws, to ensure they don’t tolerate disruptive behaviour from physicians, and an amendment to the Public Hospitals Act, to give hospitals the power to temporarily suspend a physician’s privileges when his behaviour puts other staff at risk. “The board of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital remains committed to implementing all the jury’s recommendations within our power,” said the hospital in a statement. Of the jury’s 26 recommendations, 13 pertained to hospitals. Three of these were directed specifically to Hôtel-Dieu Grace, including a review of the hospital’s workplace violence prevention program, training physicians on violence prevention and a review of security measures. The hospital stated implementation of these three recommendations is underway and it has approved an action plan for implementing the remaining 10 recommendations. Add This Bookmark

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