I am an educator. I teach children the skills to be literate, math literate, scientifically literate, geographically literate, and socially literate. I am teacher, counselor, friend, parent, and bodyguard to 120 students every year. That’s right. In the wake of nearly weekly school shootings, every day that I step foot in my school, I am signing on to be my students’ protector. I do it gladly, hopeful that my own children’s teachers feel the same. What is happening across America, an all-out assault on our schools and the people inside, is not a school problem. It is a societal problem.
Let’s start with parents in our society. I am one. I have two teenagers. You better believe I took a lot of time and energy, many hours of talking and listening, and still do, to make sure my kids have the tools they need when they reach rough spots academically and socially. When I see the slightest change to my kids’ appearance, demeanor, attitude, I check in. Not with, “Are you okay?” That will only get me a quick, “Yeah, I’m fine. Geez!” Instead I tell them they seem a little off. I ask them what’s going on, and wait patiently for an answer. Why? Sometimes those answers are long in coming. Parents need patience when dealing with kids and their issues. Parents need to be persistent and consistent with the time and care they give their kids.
When I hear about the students who’ve shot and killed others in their schools, about how they were loners, on the fringe, detached, possibly bullied, I think to myself… where is the parental support? Folks, it’s time to stop bullying the public education system and start putting responsibility first where it should go- on the shoulders of US, parents. The education system is simply that. Academic. Due to the growing numbers of parents lacking parenting skills, though, the system is now considered a surrogate, and must also include socialization to its list of curriculum. Teaching values, morals, social and emotional skills used to be OUR parental job. In my opinion, it still should be. But our schools must provide this kind of education because we have an ever-growing population of parents who were never taught by their parents either. We have hordes of families in our society that may live under the same roof, but have no emotional connection to each other whatsoever. So, rather than parents asking the tough questions of their kids and being responsible about their mental health, they let them slam the bedroom doors and isolate themselves, repress their anger, and let depression consume their entire being.
Now let’s add another layer onto this systemic problem- mental illness and a major reduction of government subsidies for programs. Some of these shooters have had a history of mental illness. Being a Psychology major in college, and keeping up with the field, I have read articles over the years about government funding being slashed for the sake of balancing state budgets. The impact of these reductions is staggering, with group homes closed, valuable programs cut, and resources hard to find. What are parents to do?! “These costs can be exceptionally large over the lifetime given that the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that two-thirds of children with lifetime mental health problems never receive treatment. This takes substantial emotional and financial tolls on individuals and families, as well as the broader society. However, programs that address the mental health needs and provide services for youth show better outcomes in health and education that carry over the lifetime. For example, in the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, therapy is being used to curb youth violence, especially amongst those with behavioral and mental health care needs.” (Mental Health Loses Funding As Government Continues Shutdown, Nicole Fisher, 10/2013) Cutting mental health programs opens a societal wound that cannot heal on its own, and plays a major role in the assault-on-schools crisis.
One final layer to add to these shocking crimes is gun control. I’m not afraid to discuss this here because I do believe we can all agree that we’ve got a huge problem. I believe in our right to bear arms, absolutely. I ALSO believe that if I want a gun, as is my right, I can exhibit patience while my background is checked thoroughly. Every person, no matter where a gun is sold (store, gun show, fair, online sales), should be required to wait for a background check to be done. And gun control doesn’t stop at a law, folks. How many shooters from these school shootings took a gun from their parents? RESPONSIBILITY is the issue. I have the RIGHT to bear arms, and I also have the RESPONSIBILITY to keep my guns protected and locked away from my children.
The picture above is of a product made of the same material as bullet-proof vests. These children are practicing personal safety in a school, using the blankets to protect them against a crazed shooter running rampant in their school. It’s not just a picture mock-up. It’s a real product and being considered by some districts. It’s a band-aid for a symptom, not a cure for the disease. IS THIS WHERE WE ARE HEADED, PEOPLE?! If so, it’s a frightening future for our schools. Something must be done now. A shooting every week. That’s our current statistic. Look here: http://everytown.org/article/schoolshootings/
SCHOOL IS SUPPOSED TO BE A SAFE HAVEN FOR OUR CHILDREN. I shouldn’t live in fear as I drive to school each day, wondering if my school or my children’s schools will be the next target, and neither should you.
*Just a warning to those who may want to post comments on this piece… I welcome your comments. I will not tolerate disrespect of any kind. Healthy debate is one thing. Bashing another’s ideas is another, and won’t be tolerated. Any threats made, both overt and veiled will be reported to the authorities. Yes, this is the world we live in unfortunately.