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Trump Administration School Safety Report Urges Media, Government to Give Assailants ‘No Notoriety’

Betsy DeVos, United States Secretary of
Michael Brochstein/Sopa Images/R

WASHINGTON — A Trump administration school safety commission is urging the media to adopt “no notoriety” policies toward alleged school shooting assailants, on the premise that the attention given to perpetrators only exacerbates the trauma of the victims and can lead to copycat incidents.

The recommendations are included in the final report of the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was formed in the aftermath of the shooting massacre in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14. Attention already has focused on how the report avoids significant recommendations to reduce access to guns. It does call for schools to consider arming employees, as well as building greater safety barriers on the school grounds.

The commission was chaired by Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education. Its section on media coverage focused on the impact of the coverage of school shootings, including the focus on alleged assailants and their backgrounds.

“Researchers have found that most shooters desire fame and wish to emulate other mass shooters,” the report stated. “In several recent surveys, approximately 80 percent of the general public agreed that media coverage of mass shootings can make offenders famous, and 70 percent agreed that this coverage can lead to subsequent attacks. Analyses of media coverage following violent incidents provide strong evidence for a ‘contagion effect,’ which holds that media coverage can increase the probability of future violent incidents.”

A “no notoriety” campaign was launched following the mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012, urging media outlets to limit using names or displaying photos of the killers. In the case of the Parkland assailant, “reports indicate that the alleged Parkland shooter received letters of encouragement, greeting cards, and even money in prison,” the report said.

“The extensive correspondence as well as the Facebook communities defending the accused have left many to wonder how a mass shooter became a national celebrity,” the report said. “Indeed, achieving celebrity may have been his very intent. The Sun Sentinel reported that the accused, via a social network, recorded a video bragging about how the massacre he planned would make him notorious: ‘When you see me on the news you’ll all know who I am.'”

The report urged the federal, state and local governments to adopt policies to adopt a “no notoriety” campaign, as well as the media.

It also addressed the impact of media and video game violence on teenagers, but summarized conflicting research on whether there is a correlation or causation. Instead, it noted the existence of voluntary ratings guidelines, and that parents “are best positioned to determine which forms of entertainment are appropriate for their children.”

The report said that “while some self-regulators provide easy-to-understand rating systems and effectively restrict con-tent through retailer requirements, all of them should review and improve policies to ensure access to content is limited to age-appropriate consumers.”

The commission also urged schools to ensure that internet filtering was in place on site to curb access to “inappropriate content.”