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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

This is America: 9 out of 10 public schools now hold mass shooting drills for students

"Active shooter" drill
How "active shooter" drills became normal for a generation of American schoolchildren.

"Are you kids good at running and screaming?" a police officer asks a class of elementary school kids in Akron, Ohio.

His friendly tone then turns serious.

“What I don’t want you to do is hide in the corner if a bad guy comes in the room,” he says. "You gotta get moving."

This training session — shared online by the ALICE Training Institute, a civilian safety training company — reflects the new normal at American public schools. As armed shooters continue their deadly rampages, and while Washington remains stuck on gun control, a new generation of American students have learned to lock and barricade their classroom doors the same way they learn to drop and roll in case of a fire.

The training session is a stark reminder of how American schools have changed since the 1999 Columbine school shooting. School administrators and state lawmakers have realized that a mass shooting can happen in any community, in any school, at any time, and that they need to be prepared if it happens.

Since Columbine, 32 states have passed laws requiring schools to conduct lockdown drills to keep students safe from intruders. Some states went even further after 20 children died in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Now, six states require specific "active shooter" drills each year. That means the training must be specifically tailored to respond to an armed gunman out to kill. There is no consensus on what these drills should look like, but several states, including Missouri, require shooting simulations with police officers.

In the 2003-’04 school year, when the National Center for Education Statistics began collecting this data, 46.5 percent of all public schools had conducted active shooter drills with students. By 2013-’14, a year after Sandy Hook, that figure had climbed to 70.3 percent. In the most recent data, for 2015-’16, “lockdown drills” — a broader category that NCES used for that year’s survey — were being conducted in 94.6 percent of schools.

"We have normalized gun killings to the point that we must now be reassured that, when the person with the AR-15 comes to your kid’s school, there’s a plan to cope with him. (That the planning is almost worthless is proved by the killings in Florida, where the murderer may have taken advantage of his knowledge of the lockdown protocols in order to kill more students.)" - Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

"We are working in schools every day with innocent children who see school as a safe place," said Henderson Lewis, Jr., the superintendent of the Orleans Parish School Board in Louisiana. "We must do everything we can to prepare our kids for an unfortunate scenario."

New Orleans schools have been practicing lockdown drills for years, Lewis said, but they need to do much more. He is finalizing a plan to have school safety officers participate in mass shooting drills with police in empty school buildings.

The types of shooting drills vary by state and sometimes by school district. But here's what this data really means: Each year, nearly every student at an American public school is trained to cower under a desk or run for their lives to avoid being murdered by a gunman.


The limits of lockdown drills


Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, has brought renewed attention to gun violence in schools.

Nikolas Cruz, a troubled 19-year-old former student, has been charged with 17 counts of first-degree murder for allegedly opening fire with an AR-15 on students minutes before the final bell rang.

As the shooting was taking place, tweets and video circulating on social media from inside the school showed students under lockdown, barricaded in classrooms, and hiding from the gunman.

The Broward County school district has been holding annual lockdown drills at each school for more than 10 years.

Florida school shooting, Nikolas CruzThere are basically two types of scenarios they train for. The first is the Code Yellow lockdown. This means teachers must lock doors and can continue teaching but cannot unlock the door until an "all clear" announcement has been broadcast over the intercom five times.

When I worked as a crime reporter in Broward County, it was normal for a school to go into a Code Yellow lockdown when police were searching for an armed suspect in the surrounding neighborhoods.

A Code Red lockdown is for a situation like the one that happened in Parkland — where a gunman or intruder is on school grounds. In this scenario, teachers must lock doors, turn off lights, and move students away from windows. No one is allowed to talk or leave the room until the all clear is given. In both lockdown scenarios, teachers and students must ignore all other fire alarms or bells.

It's unclear at what point school staff issued a lockdown alert at Stoneman Douglas. News reports say Cruz walked onto school grounds unnoticed and pulled the fire alarm a few minutes before classes finished. As students and teachers filed out, he began shooting.

Yet a traditional lockdown drill doesn't teach students what to do when they come face to face to with a gunman, and that has led to some new approaches.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: VOX,  Alexia Fernández Campbell, February 16, 2018


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