On March 24th, we once again witnessed thousands of students across our country walking out of classes to stand up for safety in their schools. And this time, from the nation’s capital, they made bold, emotional pleas for change while declaring that they were “the mass shooting generation!”
I don’t think I have ever seen such a strong movement. It will certainly have an impact in our next elections for candidates who will not support common sense gun legislation.
I remember the stories several decades ago that American schoolchildren would be put through drills for air raids. They were asked to hide under their desks in case of possible bombing. Now air raid drills have been replaced by active shooter drills.
Instead, we ask our children to practice hiding in closets, from imaginary murderers who may be in the halls of their schools threatening to shoot them.
Students don’t feel safe in schools
As Dr. Bruce Perry stated in a Washington Post article this week, “It’s no longer the default that going to school is going to make you feel safe… Even kids who come from middle-class and upper-middle-class communities literally don’t feel safe in schools.”
How can children learn when they are fearful? It is no wonder our students are angry and demanding change. We are unable as a society to keep them safe in a place that should be a place of learning and security.
One of the most important aspects of school safety is the nature of the environment we create in our schools. Safety is a basic expectation of school environment, but that cannot occur if we do not have supportive relationships between students and school staff. Relationships are the foundation for creating environments to join together to protect each other. If there are friction and tension within a school then it becomes really difficult to create caring and protective relationships.
This idea transcends the issues of violence
It also extends to issues like suicide, mental health, drug abuse, bullying, cyberbullying, emotional abuse, and other high threat situations that are commonplace in our schools. These situations create an overall environment when fear becomes more common than calm that comes from a resonant and caring environment. When fear is prevalent, learning is interrupted and negative emotions reign.
Some may think it is not possible but quite honestly I believe that it is. One reason I believe so is because I see how our Lakeside staff work diligently to make sure our students are respected, appreciated, befriended, empowered, safe, brain-regulated, held accountable for their school work and how they impact their classroom environment.
Through Lakeside’s sensitivity to our student’s struggles, normal developmental issues, and need for brain regulation, I sense a school loyalty in which students want to protect that environment. They go to staff when they feel there are threats to the staff or fellow students. Staff members take those threats seriously and do everything they can to pursue resolution as soon as possible so as to not escalate situations that could become a higher threat or violent.
Students are placed at our schools because they could not be successful behaviorally or academically in their traditional schools.
It is amazing to me that Lakeside’s students could be considered in the high-risk category; yet, we have very few incidents of violence within our schools.
I recognize that our environments at Lakeside are carefully supervised and unique, but I think we can achieve so much more relationally to help our schools become less antagonistic and more supportive emotionally, relationally and physically.
It is why we are doing all we can to train school staff to be attuned and aware to the needs of students and staff members in order to better understand each other and create a cohesive approach to school safety in the most important way possible, through strong, caring relationships.
If you would like to know more about how we train professionals for dysregulation and trauma-informed care, visit lakesidelink.com
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO