SWITCHED ON… Preventing School Tragedies

It’s that time of year again…the excitement of the start of a new school year. Students and parents are busily preparing with new school supplies and clothes for those first days of school. Students are meeting new teachers and classmates, figuring out the lay of the land. The promise of a new school year is an exciting time for everyone.

Sadly today, too many of our children’s dreams and goals will turn into endless nightmares becoming emotionally injured for life. For many parents, the unthinkable… burying a child. On average, ten (10) school shootings occur in America each year affecting students, families, educators, staff members as well as an entire community.

In America we have focused on deterrence and response to school shootings as exemplified by all the new security measures in place now at most schools. A place of love and academic freedom now appears and feels more like a prison. Millions of dollars have been spent on hardening of our schools by way of metal detectors, bullet proof glass, doors, cameras and other security devices. More and more armed police and security officers will be present on our school campuses along with arming teachers who hopefully have been specifically trained in active shooter drills. The costs to keeping our schools safe is high and inevitably is passed on via increase taxes. Unfortunately, as we see all too often, the totality of these safety measures is still not preventing these school shooting atrocities. WHY? PREVENTION is the key element missing in most schools in America today. There are preventive programs that are worthy of implementing throughout our school systems that will identify and deter potential threats. If done right, our schools can foster a more cooperative community-like environment.

I was recently invited to join the Leadership Council of Operation Innocence, a task force dedicated to
stopping school shootings, and saving children’s lives. Not only are they dedicated to stopping those
with intent, but also to changing hearts and minds to stop the intent itself; the very essence of
PREVENTION. While response and deterrence need to be focused inside the school, the focus of
PREVENTION is not only inside but outside of school, and starts in the home.

Home environment is the most critical key to prevention; it’s in the home that children learn how to treat others, take personal responsibility, and know the difference between right and wrong. Children need to learn how to treat other people AND how to handle situations when they, or someone they know, is mistreated. Who hasn’t at one time been the target of ridicule or bullying? It’s good that we squelch bullying behaviors, but we also need to push for constructive response behaviors. Both parties in these exchanges are accountable for their actions and reactions, and that starts in the home.

Unfortunately, we also have many children in America raising themselves. We must identify these at-risk kids early to provide mentoring and support. A mentoring program is essential in all our schools; coupled with teaching necessary basic life skills such as hygiene, wellness, effective communication, team building and volunteering. Keeping Safe has now become vital for each and every one of us. We all must be SWITCHED ON! Identify those children most at risk and provide ALL the necessary resources available before tragedy happens. Too often the hallmark signs are present, but are missed causing unbelievable heartbreak. We as a nation have focused on deterrence and responding to school shootings, but it’s all too little too late. WE MUST FOCUS ON PREVENTION and look forward to a time in America where schools are safe and filled with students’ promises, dreams and goals AND parents are not burying their children because of school violence.