Top-10 Tips for Personal & Peer Safety in School, Campus and Public Settings

Top-10 Tips for Personal & Peer Safety in School, Campus and Public Settings

This is a brief exploration of findings in research in more than 30 citations regarding both real and online safety dealing with other persons of potentially harmful and deadly threats including bullying and cyberbullying.  Note: If you feel you are in personal danger at any time, please call 911 for help, 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255), visit www.stopbullying.gov and guidance for immediate and additional help.

Overview and context – This short article intends to explore some of the causes and remedies for bullying, confrontations and other personal assaults whether online or in person.  We believe you can potentially stop a shooting otherwise you may end up as the next victim.  By sharing what you know when you hear it with your peers you can create a personal and peer protection network.  You can also reach out and lend a hand to everyone you know to help them and give them hope that their fears need not result in another tragedy which helps no one leaving only more heartbreak.

Here are the Top-10 tips from this research not in order of importance:

– Tools – Personal threats are often difficult to assess.  From nightmares to face-to-face confrontations, throughout all our lives we live in fear of something from not getting enough sleep, losing a job, death and often just not sure what when we are faced with real threats.  From internal fear to external facing threats one of the maturing issues we face efforts is how to deal with real and imaginary fear.  Soldiers, police and law enforcement professionals often face immediate threat in war, urban settings and other conflicts and have extensive and ongoing training in weapons and life-threatening settings.  Most of the teen shooters who used deadly force against themselves and others had recently acquired their guns which suggests they have little or no training in their use.  In addition, guns are particularly deadly devices with far too many gunshot wounds and deaths caused by simple mishandling and discharge in the wrong direction at the wrong time.  In other words, if you are not extensively trained in the use of a weapon then take great care as to not think of them as simple benign devices or toys.  The challenge in dealing with many of the high school, shopping mall and college shooting is that the shooter may also likely know little or nothing about the weapons they carry along with guns including reports of these shooters with Molotov cocktails, gasoline cans and other incendiary devices.  The purpose of any personal safety tool is to be prepared.  In today’s complex environment whether road rage or random shootings you first need to be prepared yourself.  Like any “dah” moment think of what you would do if you were faced with a shooter whether in person, down the hallway, in a parking lot, driving down the road or on an airplane.  In addition, even in urban settings like the Boston marathon bombing, if you see packages, backpacks or other unattended objects, move quickly away and from a protected place, call 911.  You can use iPeerSafe to sound a siren or call 911.  Always have your own safety plan and be ready for the worst.

– Tales – reading about shootings and other assaults from humans helps one get your own mind ready but also get into the mind of the assailant.  In addition, we have all been involved in situations where we are the “vicarious victim” where we were not directly involved but observers of events.  This can be as traumatizing as being in the situation because we realize that this could happen to you.  Reports suggest that much of the absenteeism is not from actual illness but fear of going to school or work due to bullies and other hurtful events such as being gossiped about.  There is additional fear and retribution from other students in reporting this to parents, teachers, counselors and even peers.  As reported by Walter B. Roberts there is a “geometry of vicarious learning” in bullying incidents, “Responses to an activity are like ripples in water.  The closer an individual happens to be to the action, the greater the impact.” (1)  The closer the bystander or victim to the bully are to the inner ring, the “more likely to be impacted by the behavior and make a personal decision as to what their role should be in the future.” There is as you might guess considerable impact and perpetual fear and helpless on the part of the actual victims and the many waves of others who hear about these confrontations.  With social media, these events are now “live” and distributed worldwide which further accelerates the impact as students, teachers, parents and administrators in other schools now believe this will happen to them soon – not if, only when it will happen to them.  Moreover, gender seems to have little impact on the behavior of those involved in any way whether at the scene of the incident or online.  Dropouts, alcohol, drugs and even bullied turned bully result in a complex social environment.

There is sufficient evidence reported that of tales of shooters keeping journals and diaries often years in advance of their shooting.  Few glimpses into their writings exist but reports suggest feelings of isolation, harassment, intense fear and loneliness even with close family ties.  This suggests that parents and others can’t wait until these shooters strike but parents need to “reach out and lend a hand” proactively to probe even the “most unlikely” students and others.  That is, few students are “off the grid” and reports whether real or via gossip go viral instantly.  The function of tales is to provide a platform for telling you own tale.  Whether you keep a journal or diary, use these writings as a means to track, record or confront your own fears.  The function of tales or stories is to help your realize what our own feeling are and what we should do with them.  The point is that we all face bullying and cyberbullying most of our lives.  At this goes on way after you leave school, you can be quickly faced with the same personality in the workplace with even fewer tools at hand to give you peace of mind.

– Timing – the purpose of timing is to discuss the sense of urgency in regard to any event.  Did the event happen today, yesterday or possible in the future.  There is considerable research that suggests that shooters were harassed, bullied, cyberbullied, assaulted and worse for many years before they retaliated going on killing sprees.  Of all the research this might be the most dramatic and revealing as to options reduce this kind of violence.  “All of the perpetrators of retaliatory violence has previously asked for help from adults and failing to get it, made known their plans to retaliate.” (2) The saddest consequences of this retaliation are the innocent victims such as Claire Davis at Arapahoe High School. Many victims were sadly in the wrong place at the wrong time as the shooter was in a “blind rage” (3).  In other words, there is a great amount of time at play in these situations especially the school shootings that the assailant has been thinking of what they are going to do for even years giving rise to think that some kind of intervention is possible to reduce the occurrence. For example in the Maryland shopping mall shooting recently, according to news reports, the police description of the journal entries, written sporadically over a one-year period, provides some clues though not a complete explanation for what set off the shooting. (4)

– Trust – is one of the most important emotions we need.  If you can trust someone you can love them but if you don’t then you can’t even like them.  Building trust is nearly impossible and when violated often dashed as fast.  However, working toward this is a goal of trust in “lending a hand” to those who trust no one and possibly not even themselves.  Trust made the top-10 on this list because of the way we as humans need to have something to believe-in and work toward.  The concept of “unconditional love” is one kind of trust – possibly the ultimate one.  In working through fear, helplessness and resulting anger suggests we need to create and build trust in oneself and the give trust to others.  Often the role of those “in trust” we seek trust from are not trustworthy (e.g. priests and sports coaches).  However, finding trusted people, trust centers and trust learning gives rise to the belief that such kind behavior can exist.  Friends even more than family are models of trust.  In that light, seek that out, bring that out and create that kind of trust that works for you.  At the same time, helping others build their own trust centers of friends can also help you as well.

– Team begins with you as team member #1.  You are your best team member and of course, who can you trust better than yourself.   Though it may be quite humorous to say that “I am a team player, glad to be team captain” recognizes that we all are involved in teams from family, school, religion, sports, work and culture.  Building your team is your challenge in life.  If you don’t have one, then start one because you will need your team to help you through any crisis you face.  Whether physical confrontation, online, gossip or actual injury these are people who can help you get seriously get through any problem.  Like any team, each member may have different roles.  Some are good listeners, others doers while others are advisors.  It is more than just “networking” for jobs and business, it is the people in our lives that make us better than we ever hoped to be.  You can also reach out and “lend a hand” helping others gain trust, confidence, experience, knowledge, respect and help them through their own crisis when they are faced with any other the circumstances mention in this article and elsewhere. In addition, the key to being a team player is always lending a hand to your teammates and reaching out to them when they are victimized and also to make sure they are not as well.

– Tips – Building your own and share your own tips for working through challenging circumstances mentioned here and elsewhere.  In ipeersafe there is a journal/diary where you can add thoughts, ideas, images and even recordings.  Think of it as your own “mental tip jar” where you can add thoughts, ideas, resolutions, revelations and more.  The other tip while easy to say and hard to do is – report tips to your parents, teachers and your teammates about what you hear.  Many of the shootings occurred where known by other students who did not warn anyone.  If not school staff, then share with your other students who may not fear telling because you don’t want to be the person they bury or be in wheelchair the rest of your life.  A tip in time might have saved Clair Davis, the shooter and many others from the trauma that will remain the rest of their lives.

– Tackle – given the facts that shooters have no problem getting guns and other weapons, you need to be prepared for this situation.  There is considerable debate about “rushing into” the crisis especially during a live shooting event taking place.  Research shows that even trained shoots miss the victim “rushing away.”  This suggests that running away is your best option.  Though this is very controversial, if you are confronted with the shoot as Claire Davis was and others “rushing” the shooter may distract them to save your life as nearly all reports suggest that even if the police or security are in the building, these events take place in seconds which is all you have.

– Track – Deals with understanding gossip and rumor-mill.  Even faster than online social networks is cell text chatting.  While it may sound like you are “tattler” of the gossip, often creating gossip can also diffuse a situation.  Rather than reporting what you hear to parents or teachers, share with your peers in order to get them involved in tracking and being ready should a tragedy occur.

– Terrors – Until you share with others, not your school, parents and other realize what you are facing in terms of bullying, cyberbullying, and even rumors about potential shootings, then these terrors will continue to exist and grow.  These terrors are in each one of us and giving and getting someone to help you “lend a hand” to help ourselves and others work through them, then they will continue to flourish.  Not including cyberbullying, nearly all experts agree that school shootings will not stop by adding fences, guards, metal detectors or even drones.  They will stop when you and your “team” make them stop.  You are not be the first victim of this terrorized world we live in but can certainly live your life like one.  Once you realize your peers are planning these attacks, you can try and “lend a hand” to help stop them.  They are not “loners” as is reported in the news; most of them are “talkers” telling their peers what they are planning to do.  So you know well in advance of what is about to happen and you can do something about it.

– Trends – We are only on the forefront of the kinds of physical and online terrors that society globally is dealing with.  Living a safe and quiet peace-filled life seems nearly impossible with as gang and drug violence grows and most importantly random violence which is totally unpredictable, there is also great joy and giving in this world.  You cannot influence school, campus mall shootings or even road rage but even the most recent one in Maryland suggests that the shooter knew the victims keeping a diary long before the event and just recently legally-acquired the weapon (suggesting he has little training on its use). This means all of us can help “lend a hand” and reach out to try to help stop the next shooting, bombing, suicide, etc.

Bottom-line – It is worth repeating, you can potentially stop a shooting otherwise you, a peer or someone you know and care for may end up as the next victim or traumatized for life.  By sharing what you know when you hear it with your peers you can create a personal and peer protection network.  You can also reach out and “lend a hand” to everyone you know to help them and give them hope that their fears need not result in another tragedy which helps no one leaving only more heartbreak.

 

(1) Bullying from Both Sides by Walter B. Roberts, Jr. Corwin Press www.corwinpress.com, 2006, page 34.

(2) Ibid, page 46.

(3) Ibid, page 47.

(4) Police: Md. Mall Gunman Wrote of Killing Peoplehttp://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-gun-md-mall-attack-assembled-store-22287736

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