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Located on the North Carolina border in eastern Tennessee, the rural Blount County school system has 20,000 students and four major high schools. The district is very socioeconomically diverse, and includes students living at the poverty level, some from wealthy households and many others in between. Tensions between these student populations can create a host of serious problems—including bullying, prescription drug abuse, and weapons possession.

To protect children, we must give them the tools and knowledge to make good choices.

The Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act added a provision to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requiring that schools that receive E-rate and other technology funds educate minors about appropriate online behavior. This includes showing students how to interact with other individuals on social networking Web sites and in chat rooms, and teaching them about cyberbullying awareness and response.

Sheriff’s deputies escort T.J. Lane to his court arraignment in Chardon, Ohio on June 8, 2012. Lane pleaded not guilty to six charges for an alleged shooting at Chardon High School in February that left three students dead and three wounded.

I have been involved in the aftermath of 13 school shootings. Throughout my years of professional experience, I have stayed abreast with the latest research and literature. My hope is to help dispel the common assumptions associated with school shootings. After learning of my experiences, people often say to me, “School shootings today are increasing, and they are happening everywhere.” Although this assumption has been reinforced by the media, school shootings are actually very rare, and schools remain among the safest places for children.

candlelight vigil for Tyler Clementi

New Jersey knew it had a bullying problem after a 2009 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the percentage of students bullied in the state was one point higher than the national average. The momentum surrounding the antibullying movement in the state peaked last September when a Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after his roommate streamed a video of Clementi with another male student over the Internet. State legislators then moved quickly to pass the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights on Jan. 6, 2011, which will be effective Sept. 1.

In 1992, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) released an educational video that described to students the dangers of copying information from floppy disks, called Don't Copy that Floppy. But the Internet, with its file sharing and nonstop social media, made the problem of copyright infringement much worse. For this reason, SIIA has released Don't Copy That 2, which includes a rap video and classroom resources to discuss online copyright infringement, piracy and how to become a responsible digital citizen.

Tight budgets are no excuse for failing to be proactive with school safety. In fact, school leaders must be especially committed to prevention and security programs during times when economic woes are increasing stress on kids, their families and school staff. Parents will forgive educators if their school's test scores drop.


When school administrators hear that the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School attack will arrive on April 20, 2009, most shake their heads in disbelief. They are amazed that 10 years have passed since this watershed event, which changed the landscape of K12 school safety.