Friday, February 1, 2013
School Shootings: Are we asking the right questions?
Lynn Layton, Executive Director of the Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF), and I recently attended the Florida Association of School Administrator’s Legislative Days in Tallahassee and one thing that we heard mentioned several times was the concern of school administrators about safe schools and their hope that the Governor and Education Commissioner would prioritize some funding and support to improve school safety. As a parent, hearing that was nice. To know schools are concerned with the safety of my child and every other child is comforting. I hope it is an issue that legislators and schools continue to focus on.
And then again yesterday there was another school shooting. A student at an Atlanta middle school shot and injured another student. IN 21 YEARS, from 1992 to 2013 there have now been 10 school shootings in elementary, middle and high schools in the United States that have tragically injured or killed 155 adults and students (and more before that, I’m sure).
In response to this there is talk of arming teachers or administrators in school, or of providing armed guards for every school in our country. And of course we are seeing congressional hearings to discuss newer, stricter gun control laws as well. I’m not an expert in gun control, but I do wonder if we are asking the right questions or considering the right answers. Isn’t it time we as a society think in terms of prevention and be proactive rather than reactive? Instead of providing armed guards to schools, why don’t we provide more counselors and social workers to schools? Why don’t we provide violence prevention programs to schools? Why don’t we work diligently to determine why shootings occur in the first place and seek to effect change at that level? That is a strategy that actually makes sense!
But I believe we already know why most of these tragedies occur. In a 2000 Chicago Sun Times exclusive report, after interviewing 41 school shooters, in 37 incidents, the Secret Service found that two-thirds had been bullied and attacks were motivated by revenge*. And there is a lot of bullying occurring these days, so I’m afraid these types of attacks may actually be on the rise.
In Florida alone – the average number of children that are reported as bullied, abused or neglected total 153 EACH DAY, and that is only the number reported – not the actual number of children who ARE bullied, abused or neglected EACH DAY. Every one of the 155 adults and students shot on school grounds was an extremely valuable human life and we in no way want to minimize their injury or death; but if we focus on the 153 abused or bullied kids each day, if we seek to prevent their abuse and maltreatment, maybe we can prevent future shootings from occurring.
The Monique Burr Foundation for Children provides a program called Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) – a national, research based bullying and child abuse prevention program – to all Florida public elementary schools at no cost to the schools. Speak Up Be Safe educates and empowers 1st through 5th grade students with knowledge and strategies to identify and react to unsafe situations and to help the adults in their lives keep them safe. It teaches kids empathy and bystander intervention, two strategies shown to be effective in bullying prevention.
Please visit our website at www.MoniqueBurrFoundation.org/SUBS to learn more about the program and ask your school if they are providing SUBS to their students. If not, please encourage them to begin offering SUBS now. As one parent, with just this one action, you can make a big difference in the lives of so many children! And maybe, in the future, we can prevent more tragic events from happening to innocent victims as a consequence of abuse and bullying.
All kids deserve to be safe! Let’s make 2013 the year we all work together – parents, schools and organizations – to protect all children!