Thursday, February 15, 2018

School Shootings: What You Can Do

We’re told those 17 Stoneman Douglas High School students killed on Valentine’s Day in Broward County, Florida, were the victims of the eighteenth school shooting during the first six weeks of 2018. [Photo credit: Stoneman Douglas High School Eagles logo.]

We feel helpless after each school shooting, and in many ways, we are. It is all but impossible to identify and stop a single individual, operating alone, free to select the time and place of carnage, from causing a good deal of it.

But there are things we can do.

(1) Start Early. There are many moral, ethical, and compassionate reasons for giving every child a fair start in life. But one of those reasons is that waiting to act until there are signs a child is a potential mass killer can be too late – as it was with Nikolas Cruz.

Make sure no child feels left out – or picked on. Encourage understanding and acceptance by teachers and students of those of different race, ethnicity, background, socio-economic class and abilities. Look for young children who are shy, seem to have no friends, have challenges and no support (or worse) at home, suffer from depression, are angry and discouraged, feel like they “don’t belong,” and have no adult they can turn to.

Don’t suspend, or expel, students for their behavior without first finding, and doing something about, the causes of that behavior. That’s not easy to do, especially in schools with large student populations (like Stoneman Douglas’ 3000) and inadequate resources. But even using students’ names while offering a kind word can go a long way and pay enormous future dividends.

(2) Ask questions. You have a right to know what your own school district is doing about (a) getting informed, and acting, regarding students showing signs of potential mass violence, (b) creating and informing teachers and students about what they should do in emergencies (including shootings), and running sufficient drills to make sure they can do it, and (c) maintaining building security at an optimum level – enough to be safe, while not unnecessarily increasing students’ anxieties.

(3) Commonsense gun controls. There are probably many reasons why the United States has far and away more gun deaths than other countries from mass shootings at schools. But clearly one of the major distinctions is the relative ease with which those who wish to create this carnage can acquire their weapon of choice: an AR-15 – as Nikolas Cruz did.

Find out what your federal and state senators and representatives have done, or refused to do, about the many proposed commonsense gun control measures opposed by the National Rifle Association.

Have they taken leadership on these issues, spoken out, written and introduced legislation? Signed on to legislation introduced by others? If they haven’t written or signed onto such legislation, have they at least voted for it?

Or, have they done the opposite? Have they advocated the NRA line, introduced its legislation, signed onto it, or at least voted for it – while opposing others’ commonsense suggestions?

Find out. And then work and vote for those who will help curtail, rather than perpetuate, this carnage of our children.

No one of us can make all these shootings stop. But here are three things you and I can do to reduce their number.

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