Months before shooting, parent warned Colorado school could be next ‘Columbine’

Crime scene tape is seen outside the school following the shooting at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – Five months before Tuesday’s deadly shooting at a Colorado school, a district official urged the school’s director to investigate allegations of student bullying and violence by a parent who feared they could lead to the next “Columbine.”

In a Dec. 19 letter to the director of the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, the district official said the anonymous parent raised “concerns about student violence due to a high-pressure environment” and referred to the massacre at a nearby school in 1999.

One student was killed and eight injured when two classmates opened fire with handguns at the school on Tuesday.

The district official’s letter, seen by Reuters, said the parent told Douglas County School Board of Education Director Wendy Vogel by telephone that “many students are suicidal and violent in school. Several students have reported sexual assault and nothing is being done.”

Referencing an alleged bomb threat and “an extremely high drug culture at STEM,” the parent said the environment at the school was “the perfect storm,” according to the letter.

The parent expressed concerns about a repeat of what happened at Columbine when 12 students and one teacher were killed, about five miles northwest of the STEM school.

Douglas County School District official Daniel Winsor’s letter to STEM Executive Director Penelope Eucker asked the school to investigate the parent’s “very serious” concerns, determine their “legitimacy, and “take any remedial action that may be appropriate.”

The district informed police of the allegations, it said. Cocha Heyden, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said on Thursday that the district filed a police report about the complaints.

Winsor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eucker said in a statement on Thursday that STEM contacted the school’s 2,800 parents seeking information on the complaints.

“While STEM took the allegations seriously, our investigation revealed no evidence to support any of the allegations,” the statement said.

On January 17, the school filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court seeking to establish the identity of the anonymous parent, who it said defamed the school and Eucker.

On Feb. 1, the school told parents their attorney was seeking “full remedy” for the “outrageous accusations,” which also included embezzling public funds and teaching children how to build bombs.

“We want you to know the depth of this depravity and apologize if you find this as offensive as we did,” said that letter, seen by Reuters.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama)

Twitter to put warnings before swastikas, other hate images

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw September 27, 2013.

By David Ingram

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter Inc said on Monday it would begin putting a warning in front of pictures that show Nazi swastikas and other items it determines are hateful imagery, as well as ban their use in any profile photos on the social media network.

The step is one of several that Twitter said it would take to crack down on white nationalists and other violent or hateful groups, which have become unwelcome on a service that once took an absolutist view of free speech.

Twitter said in a statement it would shut down accounts affiliated with non-government organizations that promote violence against civilians, and ban user names that constitute a violent threat or racial slur.

It said it would also remove tweets that it determined celebrate violence or glorify people who commit violence.

Twitter, a San Francisco company founded in 2006, had called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” and tried to stay out of battles among users. But that has changed as persistent harassers have driven some women and minorities off Twitter, limiting their ability to express themselves.

A rise in white nationalism in the United States has also changed tech industry standards. In August, social media networks began removing white nationalists after hundreds gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, and one of them was charged with murdering a 32-year-old woman by running her down in a car.

In October, Twitter vowed to toughen rules on online sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of misconduct.

Tweets can still include hate imagery, but users will have to click through a warning to see them, the company said. Hate images will be banned from profile photos, and further restricted where national laws require, as in Germany.

The Nazi swastika was the only specific example of a hateful image that Twitter gave, but the company said it would try to give warnings for all symbols historically associated with hate groups or which depict people as less than human.

Twitter said it had decided not to categorize the U.S. Confederate flag as hateful imagery, citing its place in history.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Richard Chang)

John Piper Says Bullying Pastors Should Be Rebuked

Noted evangelist John Piper says that pastors who are bullying and using fear to control congregations need to be rebuked for their sinful actions.

Piper addressed a question from a listener on his podcast about abusive leaders within the church.

While Piper said the words “bully” and “bullying” are not in the Bible, the application of what the Bible calls “bad shepherds” applies in the cases of what we today would call bullying.

“Does the pastor get down and live alongside his people, giving examples to them or is he always pompously pronouncing with a domineering sense of I’m a big shot in this church and you guys ought to toe the line,” Piper said.  If it was the big shot mentality, Piper stated, “That’s bullying and that’s the opposite of what God calls his shepherds to be.”

Piper also said that in some cases what is called bullying is really pastors exercising the authority given to them by God to rebuke and correct those under their teaching to guide people to be more like Christ.

Piper added if someone is unsure about their pastor’s actions, to “go to the Bible, especially the New Testament, use all of it to form a well-rounded picture of what biblical leadership and biblical shepherding is and then measure your pastor by that.”

Fifth Grade Football Team Stands Up To Bullying

A group of fifth grade football players decided enough was enough when they heard their waterboy was being bullied at school.

The waterboy, Danny Keefe, attends first grade.  He had a brain hemorrhage after he was born that hampers his ability to speak.  He likes to wear a suit and tie to school every day and it was a subject of derision from classmates.

The players on the fifth grade football team at Mitchell Elementary School heard that classmates were bullying Danny.  Instead of just acting like it didn’t happen and focusing on sports, the team took a completely different tact.

The entire team dressed up one day in suits and ties and rallied around Danny all day.

“He’s such a good person. He doesn’t let it bother him. He goes on with his day. He’s a 6-year-old kid. We should all respect that,” quarterback Tommy Cooney, 11, told WCVB.  He organized what he called “Danny Appreciation Day.”

One player said it was much more than just a one day rally.

“The coach calls us a band of brothers,” 11-year-old Jimmy Peterson said.  “He’s one of us.”

Bullied Teen Who Made YouTube Plea Commits Suicide

A 15-year-old Canadian girl who posted a video plea on YouTube seeking help in her battle against cyber-bulling and stating she needed “somebody” killed herself Wednesday night in her home.

Amanda Todd had been fighting cyber-bulling since 7th grade. She was on an online video chat when someone flattered her into exposing herself. The person then captured the image and threatened to send it to her friends unless she “put on a show” for them. The person had her address, school and names of friends, family and school classmates. Continue reading

Christian Students Bullied by Anti-Bullying Speaker

The founder of the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying project called Christian students a foul name and delivered profanity laden attacks on the Bible at a conference for teen journalists.

Dan Savage told the audience to ignore the “(explicative deleted) in the Bible” and heckled students who walked out during his self-described “beating up the Bible.” The talk included sexual innuendos and Savage’s telling the audience about his partner’s appearance in a speedo. Continue reading