School Safety: Ongoing Discussion

Beginning with this just ended school year, our nation has experienced on average one shooting incident each week at a high school or college since 2013. Shocking is the only word I can muster up! But in the current climate, we do not appear to be any closer to coming up with genuinely concrete solutions to stemming this threat. We cannot achieve safety until we are in agreement on what are the risks. Identifying the risks will aid in creating effective preventive measures that can only ensure the safety we seek in our schools.

To date, what solid, tangible or substantial actions have been taken to harden our schools' infrastructure? More importantly, what common thread best practices have emerged front and center for all to share in? Have we seen any improvement in deploying additional well-trained law enforcement personnel? Has there been a strengthening of emergency preparedness procedures that have emerged or even been implemented? Has there been greater government funding to provide behavioral health resources to identify and intervene to assist troubled youth? What is being done to get out the very important message to families regarding the safe and secure storage of all firearms so that the underage or unauthorized or unstable person does not gain access?

A first step could be in promoting the Be Smart campaign of prevention which was created to bring together all responsible adults to reduce the unintentional discharge of firearms, suicides, or any other harmful acts of violence using any guns in our communities. Most of our nation’s school shootings had occurred when a student had access to an adult’s firearm. Another critical step would be the restoration of or creating programs for mental-health services. We have witnessed a decrease or stagnation of funding support and services over the last several years across the country. Fewer counselors and social workers are being hired to work in our middle and high schools. Yet the number of youth with emotional and mental needs has grown! We are not meeting the challenge because we are not adequately managing the problem. The answer cannot be solely found in just hardening a school’s infrastructure or adding more armed security personnel. We need to detect early those at-risk youth and provide timely intervention tactics to prevent this violence. We find ourselves more often reacting after the fact rather than preventing through risk identification. Risk identification is where our challenge lies! The risk prevention intervention of issuing extreme risk protection orders or allowing for law enforcement to intercede through created “red-flag laws” could be robust early measures.

There is no point in avoiding the subject of firearms as this potentially violent instrument has been the single common denominator in all of the school incidents. To do otherwise would be irresponsible and negligent. I am only stating the obvious, and we must do better at preventing all firearms from ending up in the wrong and unsuitable hands. I am a gun owner. I want to be part of the solution. All responsible gun owners should want to be! Another important step would be for our state governments to fully fund mandated audits to ensure the well-being and safety of children in all learning environments and participating in school-supported activities and events. This measure should not be passed off to local school districts through unfunded mandates by state government as not all jurisdictions have the local tax base to support an equally applied audit finding.

To thoroughly and adequately address this risk, it should not be solely about cherry-picking the best parts or what is affordable. There needs to be a more extensive discussion of this threat and the associated risks to mitigate the identified threats and select which measures are most viable and will work as solutions---those known best practices---and shared among all interested in and dedicated to protecting our children in a safe and secure learning environment.