Student actors run down a hallway.

Can we stop the violence?

A group of experts and the families of both victims and offenders – including the parents of James Holmes – will gather at Penn State Beaver in October to discuss the links between mental health and violence and the ways we may be able to curb the bloodshed.
Community invited to participate in symposium

The story is frighteningly familiar now.

Someone – typically young and male – descends on an unsuspecting crowd. In the aftermath of the violence, those close to the offender realize the warning signs were there, delicate, subtle and unfolding over time.

But how do we learn to recognize and act on them?

That’s what Penn State Beaver’s two-day Working Together to Avoid System Failures of Mental Health Symposium will attempt to answer. The symposium brings a panel of experts and the families of both victims and offenders together with local teachers, administrators, mental health professionals and law enforcement to discuss our current system and the opportunities for new systems.

Public school teachers and administrators; mental health professionals; students, faculty and staff of colleges and universities; criminal justice professionals; victims of violence; and families of violent perpetrators are invited to participate.

Registration is $50 per individual or $300 for organizations sending up to 20 employees. To register for one or both days, fill out the online form.

See also: Beaver County Times story and video.


Monday October 9, 2017
Ambridge High School Auditorium, 909 Duss Avenue, Ambridge, PA 15003

Participants can park in the front parking lot of the High School on Duss Avenue with additional parking on the south side of the high school on 8th Street.  

8:30 a.m.    Welcome

  • Dr. L. Joan Welter, Ed.D., Ambridge School District Superintendent
  • Dr. Mari Pierce, Associate Professor of Administration of Justice, Penn State Beaver

8:45 a.m.     Keynote Speaker – “Understanding Childhood Violence and Aggression: Effective and Ineffective School Responses”

  • Dr. Tammy Hughes, Professor and Department Chair, Department of Psychology, Duquesne University  

9:10 a.m.    Impact of Violence and Mental Illness on Families and Individuals

  • Moderator LaVarr McBride, an administration of justice faculty member at Penn State Beaver who has been a leading voice in criminal justice, particularly on the topic of violent offenders.
  • Bob and Arlene Holmes, whose son walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, on the opening night of “The Dark Knight” in 2012 and methodically killed 12 people and injured 70 more.
  • Jerry, Kasi and Shinai Grzebielski, whose son and brother’s violent killing spree left three people dead, including his mother.
  • Patrick Thomassey, Defense Attorney, Patrick Thomassey Law Offices

11:00 a.m.    Break

11:15 a.m.     Panel Discussion and Questions

  • Moderator: LaVarr McBride

12:00 p.m.    Adjourn

October 10, 2017
Penn State Beaver SUB Auditorium, 100 University Drive, Monaca, PA 15009

Parking for this event will be on the campus of Penn State Beaver in the A Lot.  There will be signs directing traffic to A Lot.  

8:00 a.m.    Registration

8:30 a.m.    Welcome

  • Dr. Mari Pierce, Associate Professor, Administration of Justice, Penn State Beaver

8:45 a.m.    Learning from family members how mental illness has impacted their families - Auditorium

  • Moderator: LaVarr McBride, Instructor in Administration of Justice, Penn State Beaver
  • Bob and Arlene Holmes
  • Jerry, Kasi, and Shinai Grzebielski

11:00 a.m.    Morning Breakout Sessions - Student Union Building 

  • "A Developmental Perspective on Mental Health" – Roxanne Atterholt, Instructor in Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State Shenango (SUB 16)
  • “Trauma and its effects on victims of violence” – Kara Mild, Lecturer in Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State Shenango (SUB Lodge)
  • “Criminal Justice System Responses to Juvenile Offenders”   – Dr. Mari Pierce (SUB Auditorium)

12:30 p.m.    Lunch will be available for purchase at the campus Bistro

1:30 p.m.     Afternoon Breakout Sessions - Student Union Building - Lodge, Room 16, and Auditorium

  • “Adolescents' Social Media Use and Abuse” – Dr. John Chapin, Professor of Communications, Penn State Beaver (SUB Auditorium)
  • “Media Portrayal of Mental Health” – Dr. Juliette Storr, Associate Professor of Communications, Penn State Beaver (SUB 16)
  • “Mental Health in Public Schools” - Dr. Marissa Mendoza-Burcham, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Penn State Beaver (SUB Lodge)

3:00pm     Adjourn

To register for one or both days, fill out the online form.