News stories keep claiming violence as the national platform in our schools. To be truthful, when we consider the thousands of schools in this country, the percentages of gun violence are relatively low. But the percentage should be zero.
How to keep our schools safe from guns and violence
Just last Wednesday, an 11-year-old student was arrested for bringing 400 rounds of ammunition, multiple kitchen knives and a handgun to Frontier Middle School in Vancouver, Washington. Around 900 students attend the middle school, and another 600 attend the elementary school next to Frontier.
The student was also found to be carrying two loaded .22 caliber magazines, according to court documents filed Thursday. Police said the boy had “claimed in the presence of school officials that a ‘voice in his head’ was telling him to kill” another student after he had called the boy’s friend “gay.”
There were no injuries and no shooting. However, police stated the teen has been booked into a juvenile detention facility and is facing an attempted murder charge.
Messages in his head
How could an 11-year-old who could not deal with the messages in his head, have access to this level of weaponry and threaten 900 students? It is frightening to think of what might have happened in this school. It is even more frightening to realize children have access to guns because they are not locked up.
Incidences like this must certainly re-ignite the discussion about guns and accessibility of guns by youth. I know there are many sides to this argument, but no 11-year-old should be bringing a gun (or any weapons) to any school.
There are lots of ways to help prevent such an incident.
Admittedly, nothing can be guaranteed as 100% effective. However, persistence on a few key issues can maximize the safety factor for our schools. Six are listed below.
- We need to make urgent appeals to parents who have guns to keep them locked up and not available to their children or teenagers.
- Preventing bullying is critical. Helping students understand how to deal with bullies will help them in the moments they feel victimized. Additionally, parents need to realize the extent of cyberbullying and discuss it with their teenagers.
- We must provide counseling and support for students who demonstrate mental health issues, serious behavioral issues, or symptoms of severe stress as volatility and instability can result.
- Offer help to parents who are struggling to handle the violent or volatile tendencies of their children or teenagers. We cannot afford to ignore these students or their families.
- There must be safety plans for every school and as many violence prevention options as possible. Special door locks, security systems, video systems, safety procedures and safety equipment can be used to improve security in any schools.
- Finally, a conducive emotional and relational environment within our schools should be maintained so students feel like they can share important issues with key staff and counselors who will listen, be understanding and offer the support that they may need.
Schools are so much more than educational institutions.
They are places where our students gather to receive their education, build relationships, be mentored by trained professionals, receive nurture and support and prepare for their futures.
We desperately need to restore the safe haven of our schools by doing all we can to protect our students, teachers, and administrators. In a day where our educational programs are being diminished by financial cuts and other limitations, we need to restore the capacity to provide for the needs of our schools systems. Only then can they create the best environment for learning, physical, emotional and relational safety.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network