Some Thoughts On Making Our Schools Safer
by Honest Abe
There are a multitude of things we can consider to make schools safer for our youth. Unfortunately, the gun control debate prevents productive discussion and muddies the waters on the school violence issue. The ultimate goal is to prevent situations in which children get hurt. Therefore, it is critical that both sides of this debate come together and understand that it ultimately will take ideas from each side of this issue to actually prevent school violence. I offer a few thoughts in this blog.
Firstly, we should always strive to take threats of harm seriously. Developing better reporting protocols and having laws that allow an appropriate response to an identified risk should be implemented and continually reviewed. Schools have some processes in place to identify a child who shows signs that they may hurt others. How can this process be improved? Are we doing enough to make sure these kids get the help they need to become emotionally healthy after they are identified as a potential threat? Adam Lanza, the Newtown, CT school shooter, is a prime example of how we failed to treat someone who was struggling emotionally. I support the effort for psychologists, teachers, and law enforcement to coordinate on ways to identify and prevent at-risk kids from carrying out an atrocity. I think both sides would agree on this.
Additionally, how are we disciplining kids who are caught with weapons in school? California gathered some frightening data on how many weapons are being brought into schools . Thousands of weapons are being confiscated. This does not include the kids who are not being caught. Not only are we dealing with guns being brought in, but other weapons such as knives are being slipped into schools as well. What is being done with these kids after they are caught? Is the disciplinary action strict enough that it creates better choices or values in our youth? While disciplinary actions won’t prevent all school violence, it surely can help in the long run.
Gathering more data to analyze the problem is essential as well. What new data will increase understanding of school violence? Do we need to push for laws that require gathering and analysis of data? Clearly, having professionals, doctors, teachers, parents, and law enforcement working together to share information is critical. 9/11 showed us that government agencies lacked the ability to share information. What resulted was law enforcement coming together to share and identify threats which has prevented further terrorist actions from happening within our country. I firmly believe this idea would help with school violence as well. State and federal government gathers data presently. Perhaps the first step is for law enforcement and school administrators to share data and identify information that is lacking. We need to push for this kind of sharing of information to prevent tragedies in our schools.
Metal detectors could also be an effective way to prevent school violence. Unfortunately, the equipment is costly and schools frequently don’t have the money to purchase or use the equipment. Security personnel may need to be in place in order to run the metal detectors. We could create “law and order” in schools and assist in the use of metal detectors. Perhaps armed teachers or volunteers could monitor metal detectors in the schools. It is time to take a harder look at what it would cost to fund metal detectors and security in schools. Can we align ourselves with companies willing to provide this equipment cost effectively if we all agree it is needed? We have to ask ourselves if not having these devices or not providing the funds needed to have them is worth the cost of not having them. We have already made our airports and other public buildings safer by using better scanning techniques. Maybe it’s time we do this in our schools.
Lastly, we need to better understand how social media is affecting our youth. Several questions need to be answered. Does the constant use of social media prevent kids from developing into healthy adults emotionally? How does the use of social media affect a child’s social skills? What exactly happens to their emotional well-being by using this technology? Does it encourage bullying, or play a role in other bad behaviors? How can parents better monitor a child’s social media use? The answers to these and additional questions could help us better understand this issue. More studies on social media and its psychological effects on children might assist in preventing school violence. A simple Google search will show that there are studies on how social media use negatively affects people, even adults. Children are innocent and basically naive when it comes to the consequences of using social media. As adults, it’s our duty to better understand this for them.
These are only a few of the issues that need to be considered. The problem is large in nature and everyone’s ideas are needed. When we better understand these topics, and most importantly, gather more data, we can help to create safer schools and make a real difference for our children..
 – http://surveydata.wested.org/resources/Biennial_State_1315.pdf