I just read about the apparently accidental shooting of 8-year-old Amina Bowman at a school in Washington State when a loaded handgun stashed in the backpack of a kid with a reputation for being troubled went off in the classroom. Of course, this is horrible; of course, Amina’s needs are of the highest priority right now. She was reported as being in critical condition at a hospital in Seattle and our prayers are with her and her family.
But, of course, I have questions about the kid with the gun and have to caution everyone against vilifying this kid until we really know what the situation is?with him, which could be limited by the degree to which his family is willing to disclose his confidential information to the public and/or which can be permissibly disclosed pursuant to the ongoing juvenile legal proceedings. Of significant concern is the following passage that I’ve quoted from the article linked to above:
The student had recently transferred to the school, Bill Poss, husband of teacher Natalie Poss, told KIRO-TV.
“I don’t know a lot about the kid other than my wife’s been coming home talking about him, and he’s been a real problem in the class, and she’s been very concerned about it,” said Bill Poss.
What the hell was Natalie Poss doing discussing confidential student information with her husband??If she was concerned about her student, her husband was the wrong person for her to complain to about the situation.
I appreciate that spouses share with each other, particularly involving challenging events in their lives for which they need emotional support, but confidential student information is still confidential student information. In the very least, Bill Poss should have kept his mouth shut and not shared the breach of confidentiality with the media.
When a teacher is faced with a clearly troubled student, the appropriate measure is to submit a written referral to the district for special education assessment and/or intervention. She may have actually done this without receiving an appropriate response from her employer, which is one of those things we’ll just have to see as the investigation proceeds.?At this point, however, Bill Poss just exposed a huge FERPA violation for which both his wife and the District could be held legally accountable.
This is like the kids in Columbine and Jonesboro who were mentally ill and/or otherwise emotionally disturbed as well as unserved or underserved by their respective school districts. Had appropriate interventions been in place for these troubled kids, these shootings would have been far less likely to have occurred.
Unlike Columbine and Jonesboro, the 9-year-old third grader (and that info alone suggests a possible disability – was he held back after failing to meet grade-level standards?) in this case?didn’t pull the gun out of his backpack and deliberately shoot anyone. It discharged from within his backpack, according to the reports. But, clearly his judgment is impaired if he thought carrying a loaded handgun in his backpack was a good idea.
The questions in my mind in addition to the obvious questions of ?”Why did he have a loaded handgun in his backpack?” and “Where the hell did he get it?” are “To what degree is his judgment impaired and why?”, “If the district knew he was troubled and presenting with behavioral challenges, how did he nonetheless make it through almost an entire school day with a loaded handgun in his backpack without anyone noticing until it accidentally discharged and shot another child?”, and “How many other school days did he walk around campus with a loaded gun without anyone noticing it even though they noticed his other troubling behaviors?” Clearly, appropriate positive behavioral interventions weren’t already in place for him.
I’m sure more information is to come that will shed more light on this situation. I’m just saddened to see the responsible adults in the situation making it worse by breaking the law themselves, even if it was an emotionally charged poor judgment call. Loose lips sink ships and Natalie Poss, as justified in being upset as she was and still is, very well may have just sunk her own ship as well as that of the school district for which she works by breaching student confidentiality under FERPA, which is just one more wrong on top of the shooting itself.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. The disclosure of federally protected confidential information to the public regarding a student, special needs or not, by a public servant does nothing to speed Amina’s recovery or achieve an appropriate outcome regarding the boy whose gun shot her.
I empathize with Amina’s family. I’m the mother of a daughter, too, and I would be devastated if something like this happened to my child. Amina was clearly the victim of a systemic failure to safeguard her and her classmates from harm, not the least of which was the district’s failure to appropriately intervene with the boy who had the gun before things went this far.
I think the school district responded appropriately by bringing in counselors and putting substitutes in the classrooms to help the teachers with all the other students coming back to school after the fact. But, this is all after the harm had already been done. There should have been a competent degree of “child find” long before things reached this unfortunate conclusion. Even if this boy turns out not to be disabled (which I find nearly impossible to believe), proper assessment would have still identified what the heck was going on with him and could have resulted in referrals to appropriate programs and interventions that could have nonetheless prevented this from happening.
If this boy could have been saved before the shooting, he’s very likely lost to us all forever now that he’s entered the juvenile justice system. Amina may be the one who was shot, but presuming she recovers as predicted by her family, the boy responsible for her shooting ?is the one whose life is now most likely over at the age of 9. I hope both of them get all of the mental and emotional help they each individually need and that they are both able to recover from this horrible event.