Responding to School Shooters

Our children are being slaughtered. Despite this, no actions are being taken to limit access to guns. I could go on for hours about this. But I know in my heart that this is an issue that clearly will not come into focus for many any time soon. How many dead children will it take? The answer is already too many. Waiting around helplessly to see how many more will die is more than I can bear.

What can we do? Everything within our power while waiting for action on gun control.  Kids don’t randomly decide to shoot their peers without some indicators. These shooters are on somebodies radar. We cannot continue to ignore them. Family, neighbors, peers, school officials, and even law enforcement have met and observed the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of potential shooters. We describe them as odd, isolated, troubled…angry. We may even know that they have access to weaponry. But somehow we manage to file those concerns away; no, not here, not in our community.

Yes, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and in our communities. We need to take an aggressive pro-active approach to school shootings if we are to save our children. Reacting with appropriate shock and horror will not prevent future assaults. And we cannot wait for action on gun control. We must use the tools we have to keep ourselves and our children safe.

Those tools are observation and communication. We have the power to educate our children to observe and report behaviors that may identify a troubled peer. In turn, schools must respond with reasonable concern as opposed to punitive actions. Potential shooters already feel disconnected and often punished by the school environment which is why the school may be the target of the shooter. Monitoring social media activity is a good place to start. When threats are made, no matter how vague, beat down the denial and begin investigating.

You may feel that your children should not be learning about aberrant behavior nor monitor their peers. In a perfect world, this would not be necessary, but this is not where we live.  Peers are likely to have the best information available to identify potential aggressors. Why shouldn’t they be provided the tools that may be what allows them to pass through school and onto a good life? Why should their journey be ended before it has a chance to flourish?

We must raise resilient children who are able to respond both pro-actively and reactively to threats and adversity. This is in their best interest when it comes to self-preservation and in everyday life. Resilience is not an innate quality, it can be learned. Should we teach resilience Skills & Attitudes in our public school system? I say yes. Resilient students are less distracted by the ups and downs of the social environment at school allowing more focus on learning. Troubled children with inflexible thinking who are disconnected from the school community may be less likely to act out violently if provided with Skills & Attitudes that may allow them to think about their situation in a different way and help them to reach out and connect with others. What do we have to lose??

Charlene Fernald Moynihan  Charlene Fernald Moynihan

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