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Inside the Convention to Stop School Shooters

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ORLANDO—Ten miles from Disneyworld, the lobby of the Omni Orlando Resort was packed with restless kids sporting Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears, their exhausted parents in tow, drying off from splash-arounds in the outdoor pool and lazy river, or heading back inside after a round on the nine-hole pitch and putt.

But just a few escalator rides away, past the gift shops, there was no more fun for kids.

It was the site of last July’s National School Security Conference where education experts, law enforcement officers, and entrepreneurs – “anyone involved in protecting our schools” – mingled among “bulletproof” backpacks, pepper-spray guns and door barricades. There were gunshot-detection systems, one resembling a clunky, oversized Game Boy. There were emergency tourniquets that children would learn to apply to classmates’ limbs after shootings, to stop the bleeding.

The product exhibition was only a part of the five-day professional brainstorm on making schools safe again. School culture formed the other segment of the conference, covering such issues as mental health, threat recognition and active shooter drills. Guests headed to seminar halls for breakout sessions such as “Complete Your Classroom Lockdown” and “Active Survival.”

“The Cynosure Effect” was presented by Steve Webb, a superintendent from Goreville, Illinois and member of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force School Safety Working Group. He had a shaved head, polo shirt tucked into tan slacks and a cellphone holster, which all combined to create the unofficial uniform adhered to by many of the attendees.

“Parents are expecting to see teachers put themselves in physical danger to protect their children. I certainly hope my grandson’s teacher would.”

— Det. Jennifer Schiff

He paced up and down the aisle of the ballroom as he his imparted his PowerPoint wisdom, and shared that the three Ts of modern school safety are “terrorism, technology and teaching,” in that order. Shooters in the making suffer from cynosure, or the desire to be the center of attention, he said. They yearn to outdo and become more “Instafamous” than the previous shooter. He blamed social media and video games like FortNite. None of the recent research studies conducted on the topic have shown any correlation between these suggested causes and school shootings. Kids in other countries use social media and play video games, yet do not experience such violence in their places of learning.

He mocked the notion of holding guns responsible, and this was a trend at the show. Some remained neutral, while many balked at the futile notion of gun control. Instead, they pointed fingers at the rise of bullying in the age of Facebook and Instagram.

Brad Jarrett, who’d brought the Game Boy-like gunshot detector, blamed bad parenting.

“I think we’ve lost control of how to raise our kids,” he said, lamenting that parents have put careers first and children second.

“When I was a kid, we used to bring guns in for show and........

© The Daily Beast