In the 1940’s the most common problem in schools was chewing gum in class, running through the halls, and talking out of turn. Today, the most common problems in schools are teen pregnancy, drugs, and bringing weapons to school. My how life has changed in the last 65 years.
School violence has reached epidemic proportions. Homicide ranks as the second leading cause of death in the United States among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. While the statistics between suicide and homicide vary from decade to decade and state to state, homicide and suicide has consistently been ranked as the second or third cause of death for nearly two decades.
Today, parents receive notices telling them not to allow their children to bring guns to school. Cameras placed in principal offices, and among hallways track safety among students and teachers, and police officers patrol school grounds.
In the United States, guns are the second leading cause of death among young people, followed only by car accidents. Witness the shootings in Virginia a couple weeks ago, that superseded the shootings at Columbine a few years ago, and you will reach a greater insight into why Rosie O’Donnel hangs upside down each day to manage her depression.
Homicide in our schools has reached epidemic proportions and each of us, teachers, parents and students have a responsibility to work towards prevention. We need to keep our children safe. Violence once seen in neighborhoods and communities has reared it’s ugly head into our schools and classrooms, and threatens our youth.
We need to recognize the early warning signs of troubled youth, and get them help quickly. We need to create plans, plans for teachers, plans for parents and plans for students. We need to focus on prevention efforts, and work as a community to develop violence and prevention response plans. We must develop safe schools.
Plans to keep our children safe are comprehensive, and require training. We must be willing to spend the time and money to provide this training. Let’s train our teachers and our staff in a range of skills from dealing with escalating classroom situations, to responding to a serious crisis, to coping with the aftermath. Let’s develop crisis manuals in our schools that outline clear policy and procedures. Let’s work to involve the community agencies such as fire, police, hospital, mental health, and families in developing these team plans. These are just a few of the items need to be addressed at the school level, but let’s not stop there.
We need to teach early warning signs, and there is a real risk in recognizing these early warning signs that they will be misinterpreted and actually cause harm to a child in need One of the first priorities we need to establish in recognizing warning signs is to do no harm. The intent must be to get the child help, not to punish, exclude or isolate. We need to educate so that violence is understood within the context. Violence and aggression as an expression of emotion may have many factors, factors that exist within the home, and the larger social environments. Some of these warning signs might be social withdrawal, feelings of isolation and being alone that are excessive, and feelings of rejection, feelings of being picked on and a host of other factors, to many for this essay.
There are many things we must do to keep our children safe. The first on my list is to keep guns away from children. That is such an obvious one, that I am surprised at how often it is ignored, or dismissed. Regardless of what you think of gun control, guns have no place in our schools. None.