IRON MOUNTAIN - No one leaving the Kingsford High School auditorium Wednesday night was unmoved by the words spoken by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman as he related his experiences concerning student bullying and aggression.
He started his talk remembering how horrified he was to learn in 1998 that a middle school in Jonesboro, Ark., was the site of a mass murder. Four girls and one teacher were killed and another nine students and one teacher were injured.
Watching the news on television, he recalled feeling paralyzed, because his own son was in middle school in Jonesboro, Ark. He later learned that it was at a different school.
"It was the worst day of my life," he said. "I listened as they said that a fleet of ambulances were being sent to the school. My wife encouraged me to go and see if I could do anything to help. An 11-year-old boy had pulled the fire alarm and when the girls from the gym class and their teacher got outside, closed the door so it locked. He went back to where a 13-year-old was waiting and using a hunting rifles, their goal was to murder everyone."
He also talked about the debriefing that occurred in the gym of the school well into the early hours of the morning and how the school counselor relayed the scene at the hospital as families were being told that their children had died.
"It was the worst massacre at a middle school and was followed by the massacre of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. in 1999," he said.
Grossman also went to at Columbine where two high school students planned to kill hundreds of their peers that day. Twelve students and one teacher were killed along with the two murderers and 21 others were injured.
"We can never again call them shooters or call what happened a shooting. It's a murder - a massacre. More people were murdered in Columbine than the Boston Massacre and Valentine's Day Massacre combined. And the slaughters were committed by children," he said.
Grossman noted that the teacher in the library with the students at Columbine was prepared for a fire but not school violence.
"How many people have been killed in school fires in North America during the last century? Zero. But during the 1998-99 year, 47 people were killed by school violence and a half-million were seriously injured. The same thing in 2007-08 - zero deaths from fires in schools but 63 deaths from school violence."
"Our children are more likely to be killed by school violence than every other possible cause of death put together. The killers hunted the students down one by one, mocked them and made them beg for their lives before executing them. These kids laughed and roared while they killed and took pleasure in it," he said.
Grossman asked the group what kind of kids that we are raising today - those that watch violence every day.
"All around the planet children are committing crimes of mass murder," he said. "Putting cops in schools has worked because these killers fear failure, not dying. We have tens of thousands of cops in our school buildings. It's the same thing with lockdown drills - they are a big deterrent since the goal of a lockdown is to keep the body count to a minimum."
He calls this safety measures "hunker down and hide," and said it's not normal for kids to have practice this and be in fear. "It's not business as usual in our schools. You can never forget your outrage about this - society is coming apart at the seams."
Grossman also talked about the violence at the college level, like what happened at Virginia Tech.
"It's pure hell - the children are our future," he said. "Now we have to have college cops trained in deterring, detecting and defeating plans for massacres. It will then be in our work places and homes."
He asked the group what the source of this worldwide infection is - the one new factor that is happening around the planet?
"It is media violence through movies, television and video games," Grossman said. "There are sick video games out there with the motive of killing everyone. Future killers have dropped out of life and immersed themselves in violent video imagery. And every year, the games get sicker and sicker and more realistic and they are being sold to children. Our children are being fed sickness and horror, and they feed back with violence."
Grossman said that the constant use of these violent visual images results in the children becoming hyper-charged like using intoxicants.
"These kids need to be detoxed - no TV, video games or movies for one week and you see a child that doesn't need to be medicated, a different child," he said.
He talked about a study by the Stanford Medical School that taking the challenge to detox students in a school or an entire district, violence and bullying is cut in half.
"Bullying is worse than ever," he said. "The base of the pyramid is bullying and the tip of the pyramid is murdering kids. When you have kids in schools physically ill about going each day or not being able to go to the bathroom without fear, then it's out of control. If we want to cut bullying in half and raise test scores, then we have to detox our children and keep them away from media violence."
He discussed the fact that more than 550 teachers would be at KHS today to learn more about bullying and aggression in schools. "Education can light up the darkness and change our whole world," he said.
Christine Paulson from the Escanaba school district introduced Grossman Wednesday night and he talked about her part in getting that whole district to change and take the challenge to keep children away from violence. Information on that process is available at www.takethechallengenow.net.
"Look at the testimonials and how they changed their world. By doing this, every part of the community is thriving. They started this in 2006 and there has been a long-term trend in bullying going down - a stunning reduction. There is hope - a light at the end of the tunnel," Grossman said.
Michigan was the 48th state to pass an anti-bullying law, Matt's Safe School law, named after a boy who committed suicide because he was bullied.
"When you reduce aggressive behavior, you cut bullying. Half of all kids who have become these mass murderers had been bullied," he said. "We've got to get a handle on this now. Step one is to limit television viewing to the weekends or half an hour a day and strictly enforce the rating system on video games. A predictor of violence is kids who have exposure to high media violence. And this is one of the easiest things for parents to control."
He also said that if we love our children enough, we can do this to protect them.
"You can make a difference. You need to stand with our educators and enforce this and be a guide to our children at home. Take the challenge," he said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.