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Controversial 'Killology' speaker to teach school safety to area police, parents, educators

·5 min read

Local police officers and nearly a dozen area school districts will learn more about school safety this week from an instructor whose past remarks and teachings on deadly force have come under fire.

Dave Grossman, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and founder of Grossman on Truth, which conducts seminars on school security and the effects of using lethal force, will teach three seminars to police officers, educators and parents Wednesday and Thursday at Grace Church in McKean Township.

Matthew Bennett, superintendent of the Union City Area School District, said he joined with nine other school districts, plus the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit, to invite Grossman, especially in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 students and two teachers dead.

Dave Grossman, director of the Illinois-based Killology Research Group, conducts a safe schools and healthy students training seminar at the Civic Center of Anderson, South Carolina in September 2018.
Dave Grossman, director of the Illinois-based Killology Research Group, conducts a safe schools and healthy students training seminar at the Civic Center of Anderson, South Carolina in September 2018.

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Bennett called Grossman the "foremost expert" on responding to deadly threats.

"What he does is he lets people know that if there is an unthinkable action in a school, they have one mission and that is to stop the aggression," Bennett told the Erie Times-News. "That's what went wrong in Texas. There was hesitation, confusion and ultimately there's a lot of people wondering if things could have been different."

Grossman, however, is not without controversy.

The 65-year-old former Army Ranger, who coined the term "killology" as the "scholarly study of the destructive act," and whose teachings involve police having a healthy emotional reaction to killing, made headlines in May 2021 when one of his sessions in Michigan was canceled by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, the association canceled the session after a video posted on Twitter showed Grossman discussing how a police officer experienced "the best sex" after engaging in a violent encounter.

The report also stated how critics believe Grossman trains police officers to overcome their inhibitions to kill, a controversial practice given the intense debate about policing, the use of force and the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

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Grossman, who could not be reached for comment for this article, stated in the report the claims about him were inaccurate or distorted, insisting he does not teach people how to kill but rather a "form of mindfulness, including a breathing exercise to stay focused and to control stress."

Erie School District Superintendent Brian Polito said he declined to participate in Grossman's sessions.

"His philosophies around police training do not align with where we're trying to move," Polito told the Times-News. "Right now, we're focusing more on a community officer-type approach. We're working to have our officers really become a part of the support teams in the buildings and build relationships with our students and help them connect with services that will continue to move them forward."

'Doesn't advocate violence at all'

Mike Baldwin, vice president of operations for Grossman on Truth, said Grossman's teachings have been largely misconstrued, and insisted the idea that Grossman promotes violence was "inaccurate."

He encouraged the public to read Grossman's books before judging him and to understand that his teachings are about successfully functioning during and after a deadly force encounter and ultimately saving innocent life.

He added that Grossman is slowly walking away from the term "killology" because people are getting the wrong impression of Grossman's seminars.

Grossman on Truth was formerly called the Killology Research Group.

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Bennett added that Grossman "doesn't advocate violence at all."

"I've seen Lieutenant Colonel Grossman on several occasions and I have never seen or heard him say anything inappropriate," Bennett said. "In fact, his whole purpose is to try to help students and communities stay safe."

Bennett said there will always be controversy surrounding Grossman's seminars given the nature of the topics.

"When I hear that folks are unsettled with what he may or may not have said in the past, I can understand that and respect that," Bennett said. "But my focus is on making our school and community atmosphere as safe as possible for students — and he is a person who can do that."

Millcreek Township Schools Superintendent Ian Roberts, whose district will participate in the seminar, said he hasn't "spent a lot of time looking at the controversy" around Grossman but rather the benefit he can bring.

"What has been shared by my school resource officers and I is this is someone with a stellar military and law enforcement background who's done a lot of work that is grounded in research around school safety," Roberts told the Times-News.

Thad Urban, the assistant to the superintendent of the Iroquois School District, which is also participating in the seminar, also downplayed any potential controversy, insisting the seminar is a testament that educators are taking school security seriously.

"Information is information — it's what you do with it that's important," he said.

Who's attending? What times?

The following school districts agreed to participate in Grossman's sessions:

  • Crawford

  • Fairview

  • Fort LeBoeuf

  • General McLane

  • Girard

  • Iroquois

  • Millcreek

  • Penncrest

  • Union City

  • Warren

Bennett said each school district contributed roughly $1,300 to pay for Grossman's appearance as well as the church venue. Bennett said Grossman's fee was about $14,000. He added the seminar is only for attendees from participating school districts.

The two-day seminar will begin Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with a presentation exclusively for law enforcement, including school resource officers. Bennett said an invitation was offered to the Pennsylvania State Police. Erie County Sheriff Chris Campanelli told the Times-News he will attend.

A second session Wednesday, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., will be for parents and will discuss how to talk to children about school security and the immediate and long-term solutions to keep them safe.

The third session will take place Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with a presentation for educators.

Bennett said attendance is voluntary among all participants.

A.J. Rao can be reached at arao@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNRao.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Dave Grossman: 'Killology' speaker to address Erie police, school groups