March 13, 2001, - 1:44 am
Ferris Bueller was detained, yesterday, as a likely high-school shooter.
Well, not really. But in the current hysteria over school shootings, the FBI and school administrators think Bueller — the campy main character of the popular ’80s movie — would be an excellent candidate for detainment and questioning by teachers and principals. So would most high-school students. Especially nerds and geeks. As if high school weren’t bad enough for them already.
Freedom lovers and civil libertarians beware. In response to school shooting incidents, like last week’s episode at Santana High School in Santee, Calif., or in 1999, at Columbine High School in Littleton, Co., government and school officials are engaging in dangerous profiling and zero-tolerance policies that won’t stop school violence. But they will take away our freedoms.
In September, in response to a series of high-school shootings, the FBI released a 45-page, two-year study, “The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective.” That’s bureaucrat-ese for profiling. Listed in the report were 28 behaviors that allegedly signal a potential for violence. But these behaviors could describe anyone. And they could — and, likely, will — be used as an excuse for silencing free speech, especially political speech, and squelching other freedoms. Not to mention, normal teen-age behavior.
For example, “warning signs” include “inappropriate humor or having negative role models … associated with violence and destruction.” Hmmm. … What constitutes inappropriate humor to a teacher who’s an avowed NEA member and, likely, voted for Al Gore? Tell a joke about Hillary Clinton’s sexual preference or unattractive looks, and you may be off to the principal’s office or, even the FBI, for questioning.
Ditto for the role model characteristic. When I was in high school, one of my heroes was — and still is — Ronald Reagan. But many left-wing teachers saw him — and all conservative Republicans — as negative, violent and destructive because he built up the military and because we invaded Grenada and supported Contra Freedom Fighters in Nicaragua, in order to restore democracy to both countries.
It’s a good thing the FBI didn’t release their profile while I was in school. I’d be in big trouble. I supported the NRA and gun-owners rights, too. That’s a no-no, especially since “easy access to guns” and so-called “extremist beliefs” are characteristics that mean you’re a potential school killer, according to the FBI.
So do bad “family dynamics,” “an acceptance of pathological behavior,” “a lack of intimacy” and “no limitations on television and Internet use.”
As nationally syndicated radio host Erich “Mancow” Muller points out, these could describe Ferris Bueller’s character. After all, the harmless — and actually, admirable — guy is someone you root for. But he doesn’t get along with his sister, who hates him. He lies to his parents and others — pathologically, some might say. And as for other “pathological” behavior,” he calls in sick to school, impersonates his parents and his girlfriend’s parents, steals and destroys his best friend’s dad’s antique Ferrari, and crashes Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. And he’s got no limitations on anything. His parents spoil him.
But would Ferris Bueller shoot up his classmates at Highland Park High School? No way. And neither would millions of real-life kids just like him, who’d be profiled under the FBI’s ridiculous plan — the latest form of McCarthyism. “A lot of the behaviors listed are normal developmental stages for adolescents,” warned Peter Leone, director of the National Center for Education, Disabilities and Juvenile Justice.
“The ramifications for the kids being misidentified would be huge,” Vincent Schiraldi of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice told the Houston Chronicle. It “will be used to prejudge normal kids as potential killers.”
And the FBI isn’t just stopping with its report. It and the U.S. Secret Service send agents to schools, lecturing teachers and school officials how to identify and isolate potential school shooters, pursuant to the September report. It’s “a multi-pronged plan to assess violent threats, suggesting that a student’s personality, as well as family, school and social dynamics, must be analyzed by school administrators, teachers and counselors,” the FBI told The Washington Post.
Wasn’t the Secret Service supposed to be limited to protecting the president and nabbing counterfeiters? Profiling would-be presidential assassins, the agency now wants to profile all of us. When big government usurps our freedoms, it seems every agency wants in on the action.
As do businesses, which have created a whole industry on this dangerous student profiling nonsense. Gavin de Backer owns a California company that markets computer software for assessing student threats, according to The Washington Post. His product, “A Mosaic for Assessment of Student Threats” was used in 25 schools across the country, last year, and could be used by your child’s school very soon. Frightening.
And inaccurate. For example, the FBI’s list of characteristics of “school shooters” includes being male. But, on Wednesday, a 14-year-old girl did the shooting — at Bishop Neumann Junior-Senior High School in Williamsport, Pa.
It’s amazing that this profiling — created at the direction and strong support of former Attorney General Janet Reno and continuing FBI Director Louis Freeh — is still being pushed on America’s public schools.
Freeh couldn’t even identify high-level FBI agent Robert Philip Hannsen as a double agent — while he was, for years, sending our secrets to the Russians, right under Freeh’s nose. Ditto for the Wen Ho Lee fiasco, occurring under the unwatchful eye of Freeh’s agents. Freeh cannot identify blatant spies under his own command. Yet, strangely he can profile innocent students nationwide as killers. The only one who should be profiled here is Freeh, himself — right out of a job.
Profiling and hysterical zero-tolerance policies don’t prevent school shootings. But they do create absurdity — like the February suspension of 8-year-old Christopher Kissinger from Jonesboro, Ark., South Elementary School for pointing a chicken finger at a friend and saying, “Pow, Pow, Pow.”
Students’ lives and school safety are very important. But our freedoms are even more so. As someone once said, those who sacrifice their freedoms for security will have neither.
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