Speaker at safety summit supports guns for teachers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An advocate of arming teachers and eliminating violent video games, movies and television shows is the featured speaker at an upcoming school safety summit in Charleston.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a retired U.S. Army Ranger and former psychology professor at the U.S. Military Academy, headlines the school safety summit being organized by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office.
The event, scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Culture Center, is to encourage educators and law enforcement officials to talk about preventing and preparing for school violence.
The summit follows calls for more school safety in the wake of the recent mass murder of 20 elementary students and six teachers at a school in Connecticut.
"The tragedy last month at Sandy Hook Elementary was heartbreaking, and it's still very much on all our minds," Goodwin said in a news release.
"This summit is a chance to develop specific steps that we can take, right now, at the local level, to prevent school violence and to be as prepared as possible."
For Grossman, author of the book "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society," that preparation includes arming educators and keeping violent media away from children.
In several interviews by national media outlets following the Sandy Hook massacre, Grossman blamed the repetitive messages that violent video games, movies and television send to children. He likened the results to the "Pavlov's Dogs" experiment: ring a bell the same time a dog is fed. After a while, the dog will drool at the sound of the bell.
"We have millions of kids at a gut-basic level: human death and suffering is the same as their popcorn, their candy bar, their girlfriend's perfume, their soda. And what do they do when somebody dies in a horrible way on the screen? They cheer and they laugh," Grossman told conservative media personality Glenn Beck Jan. 3 on Beck's show "The Blaze TV."
"They are not just desensitized. They have been taught to associate reward and pleasure with human death and suffering from their youngest days," he continued.
Video games provide students a way to train to kill people, Grossman said. It's the only new factor in the past few decades that could have produced an increase in school killings, he argues.
The impact of that media on special education students is especially pronounced, Grossman told Lou Dobbs in a Dec. 18 interview on Fox Business. He said special education teachers repeatedly have told him their students are horribly influenced by violent video games.
"The video games are addictive, they're seductive, they create sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation is a major factor in mental illness, depression and suicide," Grossman told Dobbs. "The video games are a major factor in our suicides."
The elimination of violent video games and similar media would reduce school violence and violence in general, Grossman believes. In the meantime, the best way to prevent a school shooting is to have people armed with guns in schools, he told Beck.
In a statement emailed by a spokesperson, Goodwin said his staff has heard previous presentations from Gross and was satisfied with the results.
"He is a talented speaker who can facilitate an informed and productive discussion of this issue's many facets. There are few who can equal his credentials as an expert on mass violence and, in particular, on school violence," Goodwin said in the statement.
Local educators have questioned arming teachers. Kanawha County Board of Education President Pete Thaw said he would be against it, as did Putnam County Superintendent Chuck Hatfield. New State Superintendent Jim Phares said school violence is about more than gun control, but he also questioned "how many guns do you need?"
Phares is also a speaker at the school safety summit, according to a news release from Goodwin's office.
Starting at 9 a.m., the summit will also include panel discussions.
There are three different topics for each of the afternoon panels. One will consider identifying and addressing potentially violent situations. Planning by school and law enforcement officials in the case of an emergency is the topic of another panel.
The third looks at the perspective of students, teachers, counselors, law enforcement and school officials in regard to handling an emergency.
Mark Manchin, director of the state School Building Authority, is one panel speaker. Officials from the state Department of Education, Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety and the State Police will also take part in the panels.
Other agencies partnering in the event include the state Division of Justice and Community Services, the state Center for Professional Development and Cabell County Schools.
Anyone is allowed to attend but should register at www.wvsafeschools.org.