BUCKHANNON - Since the Columbine High School shooting, more than 200 school shootings have been prevented, Phil Chalmers, star of the Biography Channel show "Killer Teens" told the audience in the auditorium of Buckhannon-Upshur High School.
However, Chalmers said that good news is usually bypassed by the media. He said that the media explosion following a teen murder helps create the idea that such crime can be an easy way to fame. He said that media should not immortalize any killers by reporting their name or showing their faces.
Keeping the story cycling in the news also just increases the killer's fame.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Television personality Phil Chalmers lectures about bullying and teen violence.
"This is a sick country we live in that makes money off of murder," Chalmers said.
When Chalmers asked teachers in the audience to raise their hands, and about a dozen did so, Anita McVicker of Buckhannon questioned from her seat why there weren't more teachers attending because "this place should be full of teachers. It should be mandatory."
In the dark B-UHS auditorium, participating parents, teachers, school board members, students and interested citizens saw the graphic reality of teen violence through the videos, photographs, quizzes and information brightly displayed on center stage. Chalmers already had visited B-UHS earlier in the day for a separate presentation to captivate students, raise awareness and hopefully put a stop to adolescent bullying and violence.
"I thought it was a good program," school board President Teresa Bellamy, who watched the evening presentation, said. "I was excited to hear that he was coming. Some of it was kind of shocking."
Chalmers said he has been actively reaching out to teens for 27, raising awareness and speaking to them on their level. He said he grew up in an unstable home and wanted to give back to the community.
"When you communicate with people, I think you have to have a mix of humor, reality and lots of information," Chalmers said. "I think these kids today are so desensitized that you have to keep it real when you speak to them. I'm edgy - in their face - and they get it."
Chalmers told the evening audience what warning signs to watch for in children that might indicate they were contemplating committing murder. He said the youngest killer is a 6-year-old boy who killed a classmate because she made fun of him for being a bed wetter. He has interviewed over 200 teens guilty of different types of murder like school shootings, crime-related murders and thrill killers. He said that not every child exhibiting the warning signs could be a killer, but children who have three or more of the signs are at risk. He said 90 percent of teen killers are male.
Some signs are mental illness and brain injuries; a lack of spiritual guidance and proper discipline; a criminal lifestyle and/or living in poverty; alcohol or drug abuse; anger and depression or being suicidal; playing violent video games; living in unstable homes; being bullied at school; having easy access to or a fascination with deadly weapons; and being a member of gangs, cults or hate groups. He said that want-to-be gang members are more dangerous because they have something to prove.
Chalmers also said that video games like the Grand Theft Auto series, when played by an unstable kid exhibiting multiple warning signs, can be a dangerous influence and could serve as a practice scenario for planned mass murder. He said the game franchise made $100 million on GTA5 on its release day alone.
"Not talking about violent video games is a problem," Chalmers said, "because that's a big part of it."
Chalmers gave tips to help families prepare if they find themselves facing the danger of a possible murder. He said that weapons, like guns, should be locked up in a steel safe, phones should be charged next to the bed for emergency calls, extra locks should be placed on doors and, in this day and age, homeowners should never let anyone they don't know inside their house. Chalmers said that surveillance systems are useful and that the blaring alarm of a security system can both deter criminals from entering a house and stop teenagers from sneaking out.
For even more information, warning signs and safety tips, visit www.philchalmers.com.