From the ridiculous to the sublime! First thought about having teachers carry weapons, guns, in our public schools, is that the imagery alone conjures up escalated numbers of school shootings, as though that is impossible once someone starts shooting innocent children and educators. School shootings are now becoming shootouts??? Scary thought!
I know, I know! The ‘hot’ topic of the day isn’t global warming, refugees or immigration. It is the most recent school shooting in Florida. Once again 17 lives were interrupted and many more lives are forever impacted. Among those lives lost, will be the lingering memories, and for many, certainly traumatic stress producing. Children, families, teachers, neighbors, friends, and many more people are the collateral damage produced by these horrible occurrences. ACEs don’t fully cover the range of help and support needed in this community, not to mention the families and communities where shootings have taken place before this one.
It would seem to me that the bystander effect has taken control for long enough. Is it that everyone is still waiting for the next person to act in the best interest of the children and everyone else who happen to be in close proximity to an active shooter? I do not mean that teachers are standing in fear while awaiting the next teacher to step out of the shadows and kill or critically injure the active shooter. I don’t mean that any staff member must step out from safety and confront the perpetrator of this crime/cry for help, either.
First, could it possibly be that the shooter is making his/her final cry for help, recognition, support, guidance? Is it that, in the end game for this person, that their hope is that they too, are killed and thus their personal pain and suffering ends, along with the others? If you indulge me for a moment, suppose this is true. The latest shooter, as the others, felt unsupported, bullied, unaffirmed, undervalued, etc., for so long that this latest act was a retaliatory one in which it becomes clear that the recognition will be received. People will finally pay attention to them-‘see’ them, and also ‘feel’ the pain he or she felt for a long time.
Do we consider these as possibilities that are taken into account and consideration as we, not only help a community heal and process the tragedy, but as we plan to prevent another to be repeated by a different student in a different school, town, or wherever. What if signs of distress were present for so long, and not one person, even if recognized, said or did anything to help this young person when it wasn’t an unavoidable situation. Actually, it is never unavoidable, but always avoidable. For the individuals who are chronically suffering inside, all it takes is for one person to step up. Ask questions, refer, counsel, follow up- to make a difference between the day before the shooting when no one had a clue, and the day of and after when people’s lives have been uprooted and forever altered.
There is still an issue and ongoing debate about gun control in this country, and shouldn’t stop until it makes clear sense, the policies we attach surrounding access and to whom we permit that access. Also to be determined, under which clear and without loophole or ambiguity, conditions is usage excusable, allowed, or deemed ‘righteous’ under the law. There remains an issue central to our concerns in order to prevent these events. Seeking solutions that address how we react to these events should first emerge from the mindset in which an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. We must begin to pay closer attention to youth and their families as well.
Children can’t be expected to learn or thrive in environmental conditions that are stressful, inadequately poised, or which aren’t conducive to classroom learning and achievement. We understand that children have basic needs which must be met. In the immediate, we understand that they have developmental , physical, emotional, psychological needs which must exist on a level by which students may best acquire resilience and access outside supplemental supports regarding those needs. Is that not where schools step in?
With the number of hours children spend away from home, their primary environments, it only makes sense that we charge schools with undertaking the responsibility of advocacy in the absence of parents and caregivers. No, our role is not to parent, but support children and their parents ability to provide and support skills learned in school. We support the education process of children, and learning, not an isolated independent process, is optimized under certain conditions. It is at school that we provide and maintain those conditions-safe, supportive, healthy, challenging, and individually culturally responsive.
We have youth demonstrating a range of emotions and expressing them in extremely insensitive, harmful manners. In incidents such as Parkland, not only is a statement being made to teachers, but students, parents and all associated with this environment, for it is apparent that there was great disappointment experienced by this youth within this setting. Anger is demonstrated against students, because not one supported, acknowledged or stood up for the student, and everyone else, whose job it was to provide those tools and skills that are critical to their healthy development. They, youth engaging in these acts, do realize the importance of the school environment, so why aren’t we?
Instead, we limit funding, when education investing produces the best ROI possible. And, we are and should be investing in our future, our children’s future and the future of everyone else’s children. Instead, we limit school facilities, like building space, gymnasiums, playgrounds. These are critical to development. Instead we mandate parents to send their children to learn in settings that are structurally unsound and unhealthy, e.g., lead running through it’s water supply. Instead of showing a clear commitment to the future of society, and ensuring quality public education and experiences for every child in public education systems, we limit books, guided by a narrow curriculum, materials no longer valuable or relevant to prepare children for their future economic, life and career demands.
We omit cultural competence, social-emotional skills, as an essential component of the general curriculum. We say one thing but demonstrate differently. Children are supposed to learn in environments with access and opportunity more readily available than out in the ‘real’ world. They are supposed to learn with state of the art technology and be fed the most healthful meals. That which children don’t have at home should be supplemented by the school. That demonstrates a commitment to ensuring bright futures for children and ourselves. Even in the best of communities, we still see these disturbing occurrences like school shootings, mass murders, and this must inform us that there is still something very deficient in the school environments themselves.
In that building, a Utopia must exist for children, even though we know that is not representative of the real world. However, in order to ensure that all children have bright futures and are productive members of a better society, they must have access to the very best that is available. If chaos is allowed to exist in schools, then we are preparing them for a chaotic society. We aren’t showing them what they can be, do, and achieve. We still limit access to possibilities, a very important factor of engagement and achievement AND healthy development.
We still teach children the same values taught when the law of the land accepted, recognized, supported and practiced inequality, discrimination, segregation, and separate but equal, knowing that was inherently wrong and an excuse to continue to discriminate and limit life possibilities for children of color, the economically disadvantaged. In relation to this shooting in a school, arming teachers would fail on every count and simply turns active shooters into school shootouts producing unnecessary collateral damage.
Comprehensively, we must train better, teacher more inclusively, and that includes mental health integrated into the curriculum, too. We must increase mental health professionals in every school, even those in the suburbs, because that’s where these events occur-all white communities. The increase of counselors, social workers and school psychologists should be grade-age specific, in the way content areas are taught under the curriculum-scope and sequence. Aren’t your children worth it?
If you believe that my children aren’t worth the added expense or greater investment, remember, we don’t and won’t exist in bubbles. In the future, my child may work for your child, may rob and shoot your child, may rape your daughter[pardon the explicit, but keeping it real as possible, because what we see is very real.]
If education unlocks the doors to a better, more peaceful, tolerant future in a global society, then in order to ensure that every student learner is given all the comprehensive supports needed to be solutions, not problems for society, then we must put our money where our mouths are. If we teach children to be upstanders, compassionate, and life-long learners, we must demonstrate it while offering ample opportunities to practice these principles. We must be compassionate, commit to life-long-learning and show upstander behaviors to others. We will set the climate and reflect a culture in which we affirm and recognize as well as encourage and empathize with others.
There must be a system of practices in place whereby students receive ample supports and opportunities to have access to safe places, staff who are guaranteed to listen and help build coping, resilience, and also advocate in their best interest. In order to do these things, we must advocate in the larger society for our policies to allocate funding in areas which demonstrate our commitment to the future and solutions-before they become problems.
Unfortunately, there will always be an anomaly, a random act of gross unkindness in this world, schools, and such, but being more proactive is a better solution than being reactive and/or by making politically-correct suggestions and gestures. I understand that some people are fearful of a more brown future population, and the loss of implied and inexplicable entitlement and privilege. Some are, at the core, fearful of power, illegally and unethically earned, and they fear losing it to those who legally or ethically earn it through aptitude and opportunity alone. They fear that someone will open a door and provide opportunity and access to someone ‘different’ and that is a real grounded fear, but doesn’t have to be. It speaks to us more than the other persons.
The solutions: I am unable to pinpoint the best, most economically sound decisions to be made that will effectively address the nation’s new fascination with tragedies like Parkland, Florida, but it is very clear that we must reorganize, reframe, reallocate and reenvision school settings and the framework of public education in order that we practice what years of research data has informed us. The ‘whole’ child approach cannot be adopted and fulfilled in schools until we train and staff professionals, multidisciplinary teams, similar to the way we employ pedagogues. The scales are tilted so far that children are failing and falling through the cracks of a system in which they are simply test scores and mere faces.
Proactive and most positive productive efforts to mitigate and interrupt potential incidents at our schools involves arming professionals, complementary to one another, with skills, tools, and sufficient staff to address the needs and strengths of students more individually and comprehensively. Not a new wealth of skills, tools and competencies, but a comprehensive wealth of competencies must be taught in school settings to respectfully, but proactively empower students and their families. We, as educators should look to non-violent evidence-based promising practices which will better enable them to achieve comprehensive wellness and live full lives as productive contributors to a global society.
Last thought to America, with all honesty and much respect, in those school settings when you hear tell of mass shootings as gun related crimes, it’s specifically not in those schools with marginalized populations. Gun related events occur with much less collateral damage in settings with majority ‘of color’ students no matter the economic circumstance. Why? Blacks, poorer groups and Latinx students are far more likely to be frisked, searched, subject to metal detectors at school, arrested and jailed for mere knife possession more often than guns. Legal possession is not the M.O. of this facet of gun-toting America. They are far less likely to be granted a license to legally possess one. Hence, the black market also thrives in the poorer areas. But, where are they getting them from? Unscrupulous white gun shops in different states with less strict regulations.
Certainly, semi-automatic weaponry is not the norm of access either. In viewing the stats, I would say that those opposing gun control should rethink their views on the issue. It is ALWAYS a caucasian kid who commits these deeds against their communities and fellow citizenry. Given this thought, it still does not negate the necessity to teach pro-social skills and social emotional skills in these communities. Trust me, it is definitely needed. However, this topic deserves consideration in more detailed discussion.
Share your thoughts, because I am certain that everyone has a unique view!