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Today at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, you have to look closely for evidence that one of the worse school shootings in U.S. history happened here 20 years ago.
The building looks like any of the thousands of American high schools across the country. The students hanging out in front of the school or practicing on the football field weren’t even born on April 20, 1999, when two student gunmen opened fire on their classmates, killing 12 students and a teacher.
But the markers are there — if you look closely enough.
Just over the hill from the school at an adjacent park is the Columbine memorial, which pays tribute to the people murdered in the massacre. The football stadium is named for Frank DeAngelis, the principal who led the school through the crisis and stayed on for another 15 years.
The softball field honors teacher Dave Sanders, who bled to death in a classroom while waiting hours for medical help.
Protocol at the time called for sheriff’s deputies to wait outside and secure the perimeter until the specialized SWAT team could arrive. Columbine was one of the first mass shootings at a U.S. school, and it changed how schools and law enforcement prepare to confront an active shooter.
“In 1999, that’s what deputies did. They ran toward danger, and then they contained it. Now, the training is different,” says Jeff Shrader, sheriff of Jefferson County, Colorado, whose deputies responded to the incident at Columbine two decades ago. “They’re going to go to the shooter. They’re going to do everything they can to neutralize the threat. To identify it and to neutralize it so that hopefully more lives would be saved.”
At Columbine, first responders were also hampered by poor communication and uncertainty about the school’s layout.
“One of the things we were able to do shortly after that was to put maps of schools in command vehicles so that they were readily accessible,” the sheriff says. “In our command operations center, we maintain those, but they were things that just weren’t thought of in that point in time.”
Responding quickly to a school shooter is not the only thing that’s changed since Columbine.
Visitors used to be able to walk right into most American schools. Now, exterior doors are locked, and many schools use an intercom buzz-in security system. Interior classroom doors often lock now, allowing students and teachers to lock themselves inside. There is a film that can be put on windows to effectively render them bulletproof.
The U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) finds that school shooters often experience some sort of stressor — a setback, challenge or loss — leading up to an attack.
“They had difficulty coping with perceived injustice or bullying that was happening to them at the school, whether it was real or perceived,” says Dr. Lina Alathari, chief of the NTAC. “They had a sense that they were being bullied, and in a majority of incidents, these students were being bullied.”
FBI investigators concluded the Columbine killers were not bullied.
Today, the Secret Service recommends that all schools establish a threat assessment team, made up of teachers, counselors and others, to identify students in distress or who might exhibit concerning behavior with the aim of stopping violence before it happens.
“There is no specific type of student who would carry out an attack,” Alathari says. “In a majority of cases, these were mainstream students. The most common performance, they were As and Bs. They came from different types of families, intact families, single family homes. They were popular. Some were loners. So, there really is no single profile that you can point to and say that is the type of student that would carry out an attack.”
Markers that threat assessment teams should look for include students whose grades decline, are experiencing suicidal thoughts or becoming more isolative, as well as other changes in behavior.
“This is when we need to be intervening as a community to offer that student assistance before it escalates to the point where they view violence as an option,” Alathari says.
To date, the NTAC has trained more than 100,000 school personnel, law enforcement and others with a stake in school safety on how to identify and assess and intervene with students of concern.
About 90% of U.S. schools have a plan for what to do in the event of a school shooting. Seventy percent of schools drill students using that plan, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Columbine survivor Samantha Haviland was a 16-year-old junior when the shootings happened at her high school. Two decades later, she is director of counseling for Denver Public Schools, and she has concerns about how lock down drills impact students.
“To remind our students over and over again that you are not safe, you are not safe, you are not safe, is causing a lot of anxiety,” Haviland says. “And we have students who are jumping out of windows during drills because they think it’s real because someone dropped a book at the wrong time.”
She says there is a part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder called hyper-vigilance, where a person is always looking for exits, places to hide or how to escape, and keeping an eye out for who might try to hurt you.
“That hyper-vigilance takes up a lot of brain capacity and really decreases our students’ ability to focus on education when they’re in school. So, they’re not learning at the same rate that maybe you or I did when we went to school,” Haviland says.
In 81% of the school shooting incidents the NTAC studied, other students knew that the potential perpetrator was about to carry out an attack or was interested in doing so.
More schools are adopting procedures that teach students how to safely report suspicious behavior.
“It’s important for kids to see something, say something, hear something, say something,” DeAngelis says, “but then we need to do something as adults, and we need to follow up, and that is a key component.” (VOA)
As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.
According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.
Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.
Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.
As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.
Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.
Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.
Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.
Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.
Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.
Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.
Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.
The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.
To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.
Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.
The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.
The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.
The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.
Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.
The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.
When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.
"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.
"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.
Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.
On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.
Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.
Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.
The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.
The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.
"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.
"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.
ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.
"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.
"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.
"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."
"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.