The Tragic Death Of A Caring Educator


Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

Robin Lyons' Blog Post #129Sadly, there was another school shooting this week. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who lost their loved one, to those injured, and to those who were frightened by the event.

Perpetrators of school shootings act for a broad range of reasons. And it isn’t always a student looking down the barrel of a gun.

BLOG POST #129: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific case involving a special needs teacher and her estranged husband.

Not Happily Ever After

The teacher and her husband dated for four years before they married. He was a pastor with a criminal history. She was known as a caring educator with a special affinity for working with children with learning disabilities.

The teacher’s mother was reported to have said her son-in-law changed after the two married. He began criticizing and belittling her daughter.

Three months after they wed, the teacher moved out.

Trouble Found Her At Work

A few weeks after the teacher moved out, her estranged husband walked into the school and used the pretense of dropping off something for his wife. He entered her elementary classroom, with 15 sets of little eyes watching, he shot and killed his wife before taking his own life. Gunfire also hit two students; one was fatally wounded.

The Rest Of The Story

To aid in the recovery from the horrific event, over the summer, the school received a $1 million makeover.

As parents arrived on the first day of school, they noticed a slowdown when entering the building. New security measures were in place at the entrance. Upon entering the school, they saw the hallways had been repainted with bright colors and featured inspirational quotes.

Memories of our lives, of our work and our deeds will continue in others.” – Rosa Parks

Tempered glass now lined the large windows in the interior classrooms. Classrooms now have locking steel doors and an exterior exit. The special needs classroom where the deadly shooting took place is now a project room, and the number on the door was changed. The special needs students have a new classroom across the hall.

Returning to a campus after an act of violence has occurred is extremely difficult. I applaud the school district for their effort to make the school as welcoming and positive as possible.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, here’s some helpful information: Domestic Violence & Abuse

Worth mentioning: The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness reports 75% of domestic violence related homicides occur upon separation.

Here’s my ‘Take Away’: Schools can’t be expected to do background checks on coworkers’ spouses. Domestic violence is tricky, the person being abused is often afraid to say anything for fear the abuse will intensify or worse. There are always a few friends who know or strongly suspect what’s happening. Does the spouse excessively boast about how wonderful life is? That’s a clue; life may be far from wonderful. Whenever your gut tells you something is off, speak to the principal so he or she can know to be leery of the spouse.

What do you think about this case? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools. Your relevant comments are always welcome on the Research Blog.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading and caring about children!


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Was This 3rd Grader’s Death an Accident or Suicide?

Blog Post #97Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your busy day or night to read my post. As always, I promise to keep this somewhat short.

If you’ve read any of my posts, they’re usually about super sad stuff going on in or connected to schools. For most people, myself included, the content is concerning. The information I share is important to know so we can all be more vigil about keeping children safe.

BLOG POST #97: This week, I’m sharing research on a specific case involving a third-grade boy. And be forewarned, this one is beyond sad. I have a grandson in the third-grade, I thought about him a lot while I researched and wrote about this case.

Children can be mean and sometimes cruel. Bullying at all ages is on the rise. Schools don’t know how to stop it. Victim’s parents don’t know how to stop it, especially when you consider most bullies learn how to bully from someone in their life.

Socializing is Hard for Introverts at Any Age

He was a shy, quiet third-grade boy and a little small for his age. He didn’t have many friends. According to family members, the bullies would wait outside his home and continue to torment him at school.

At first, he tried to let the mean comments and actions slid by using clever comebacks. There were a few times when he resorted to fighting. With the new school year, he began building a clubhouse behind his home in hopes of making new friends. His unfinished clubhouse sits as a heartbreaking reminder of what happened.

At 9, Life Can Be So Unfair

He and his three siblings lived with their grandmother. His grandmother said he’d been down, and she tried everything she could think of to bring him out of it or to talk about what was bothering him.

One of his sisters noticed his change in demeanor. She found a frog outside and took it to him thinking he’d like it. What she found in his bedroom was her 9-year-old brother hanging from his belt. There was nothing anyone could do as he’d already died.

Mixed Messages

The local Sheriff Department conducted an investigation and determined it was an accidental suicide.

The boy’s family was adamant he committed suicide in response to his feeling hopeless from the relentless bullying.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff Department said, “What the public needs to know is that this bullying was completely unfounded. The school he went to is one of the finest schools that we have ever had the pleasure of interviewing.”

From everything I’ve read about this case, nothing said the family had an issue with the school. They had an issue with the bullies at the school who also lived in their neighborhood.

The Superintendent of the school district where the boy attended school said, the young boy taking his life was, ‘tragic.’ He went on to say there had been no reported incidents of bullying at the school involving the student.

We’ll never know if he reported his incidents of bullying or not.

A counselor from the school said the boy wasn’t the only one at the school who has had to battle bullies.

The Proof is in the Pudding

In a quick look at the school’s most recently posted Student Code of Conduct, dealing with bullies and/or bullying was mentioned 95 times. And there’s an entire policy on Bullying, Harassment, and Intimidation. Is that overkill or are they trying to crack down on bullying like every other school is the U.S.?

What do you think about this case? Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!


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The New Girl

the-new-girl-fbBLOG POST #89: She was new at the high school, a freshman. Her family moved to the United States from Ireland. You may have heard or read about her story in the news. Being the new kid at a school can be difficult. Nobody disputes kids can be mean.

She was bullied for the first three months of school. The bullies were relentless.  The new girl began dating a popular boy; this didn’t sit well with the bullies. They verbally abused her, they threw things at her, they wrote abusive comments on social media, they threatened physical abuse, and they sent hostile text messages. It takes a strong, self-confident teenager to weather the storm of mean comments made with no other purpose than to hurt. The 15-year-old victim in this case couldn’t take it, she committed suicide.

Six students were charged with felony and misdemeanor charges as a result of the bullying. The charges ranged from assault and battery to criminal harassment. One 18-year-old boy was charged with rape, although he denied having sex with her.

The conduct of those charged, the district attorney said, “Far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”

Five students accepted plea agreements and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal harassment. Three teens were sentenced to probation and 100 hours of community service. Two were sentenced to probation. The rape charge against the 18-year-old was dropped at the request of the victim’s family.

Many states have since enacted anti-bullying laws. Some require more accountability of school staff to respond to reported cases of bullying. At the time of this incident, when a new law was under consideration, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives voiced concerns about responding to bullying rather than creating a culture change, “so that bullying is antithetical to a school’s culture…”

Worth mentioning: The victim’s family filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination alleging the school district failed to protect their daughter from discrimination. The family received a settlement of $225,000.

What do you think about this case? Do you think the sentences were just? What are your thoughts on mandating schools to be more responsive to reported bullying? Do you know of a school crime that you feel others should be made aware of? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!


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Obsessed With Columbine


Posts about real school tragedy, crime and/or events can be upsetting.

BLOG POST #79: Her mother, a seventh-grade teacher, told law enforcement her 18-year-old daughter suffered from a mood disorder, personality disorder, ADHD, depression, she was suicidal and had been known to cut herself. Her daughter lived at a “group home” residential facility for individuals with mental illness and was under 24-hour supervision.

According to her mother, when the group home was asked why her daughter was allowed to come and go as she pleased, she was told her daughter needs to make decisions on her own and understand the negative consequences of making bad decisions.

She saw the Columbine shooting documentary in school and had been obsessed with it since then. In 2014, when hanging out with friends, she played the Columbine documentary for them and then reenacting some of the scenes. One friend became concerned. That friend reported to facility staff the 18-year-old and another resident were planning to shoot up a nearby high school.

Law enforcement was called to the residential facility. After conducting an investigation they determined the 18-year-old female and a 19-year-old male were openly talking about obtaining guns and shooting high school students and staff, and then themselves. The 18-year-old’s mother said her daughter had been bullied at the high school she’d spoken of, but she “would never hurt a fly”.

Through the investigation, law enforcement learned that the 18-year old tried to purchase guns at three locations. In the state where this happened, there was a 14 day waiting period. She completed the paperwork at one of the locations. She did purchase a Rambo-style knife from one of the locations.

Two journals were found at the female’s residence and a book titled “Ceremonial Violence, A Psychological Explanation of School Shootings” was located on the kitchen table. In one of the journals she had written about her heroes, Eric and Dylan—the shooters at Columbine—and how she wanted to follow in their footsteps. She wondered how they were able to purchase guns. She wrote of her frustration that she was unable to purchase guns. When law enforcement asked her how she had intended to pay for a gun she said she had half of the money saved and she’d pay the balance with her food stamp card.

Both the female and the male were arrested and charged with Conspiracy to Commit 1st Degree Assault and Criminal Attempt of 1st Degree Assault. Both accepted plea agreements. Both were sentenced to 7 years in prison and are still incarcerated at this time.

In this case, the potential shooter was no longer a student at the high school she was targeting. How do law enforcement and school administration develop a proactive game plan to stop a crime before it happens when the perpetrator isn’t even attending the school?

What do you think about this case? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools. Your relevant comments are always welcome on the Research Blog.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!


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Three-Day Suspension

Crime sceneOn a Monday in October of 2007, a 14-year-old student was suspended from school for three days for fighting. Responding to his suspension, the 14-year-old said to classmates, “I got something for you all.”

On Wednesday of that week, while still on suspension, the 14-year-old was able to enter the school with a duffle bag stocked with a .22 caliber revolver, a .38 caliber revolver, ammunition, and three folding style knives. Upon entering the school he proceeded to a boy’s restroom and loaded the guns. When he left the restroom he bumped into a male student. The male student punched the 14-year-old in the face for bumping into him. The male student became the first victim and was shot in the abdomen.

The 14-year-old shooter moved on to a specific teacher’s classroom. That teacher was shot in the chest. A second teacher was shot in the shoulder. The shooting ended when the 14-year-old shooter took his life. In the end, two teachers and three students were shot; none of their wounds were fatal.

There were no metal detectors at the school, but there was an armed security guard positioned on the entry level. Previous to the shooting a second security officer was assigned to the school, but that position had been eliminated.

Professionals who study youth violence stated there were warnings that fell on deaf ears in regards to this specific school shooting. The week before the three-day suspension, the 14-year-old threatened to blow up the school and stab everyone. His threat was made in front of teachers and other students. Troubled teens who plan attacks often warn of their intentions.

The year prior to the shooting, law enforcement responded to the 14-year-old shooter’s home five times for domestic violence, assault, and property crimes. That same year, the shooter spent some time in a mental health facility where he threatened to commit suicide.

Two years prior to the shooting, the shooter was charged with domestic violence against his mother.

It was reported, that the shooter had been bullied because of his “Goth” appearance and eccentric behavior. One of the shooter’s friends said the shooter had been pushed too far.

After the shooting, the school district established an anonymous “hotline” for students to use to report threats and dangerous behavior. Metal detectors have since been installed. Campuses are now closed. All visitors are processed through access control procedures. The school district also has a no-nonsense policy regarding parental duties imposed when students are suspended or expelled (Excerpt from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Division of Safety and Security):

Children Suspended or Expelled from School to Remain Under Supervision; Parental Duties Imposed

If a child is suspended or expelled from school, then each parent or legal guardian of the child shall have the following duties for the duration of the suspension or expulsion:

The duty to personally supervise the child, or to arrange for a responsible adult to supervise the child, at the times that the child would have been required to be in attendance at school had he or she not been suspended or expelled.

If your child is suspended or expelled or is truant or habitually absent from school, the school board may order you to attend parental training. Failure to attend the training is an arrest-able offense.

Any child that violates this section is an unruly child and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court.

Any person that negligently fails to fulfill the duty imposed by this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor for a first degree offense. Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offense for violating division (b) of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree.

What are your thoughts on this case? Far too often a student who turns to violence has been the subject of bullying. Do you have thoughts on how schools can better deal with bullying?

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