Our hearts go out to the families who lost family and loved ones in Uvalde and the other gun shootings over the last three decades.
We suffer along with them, as we feel powerless to stop school gun violence that has occurred at more than 27 schools this year.
With pain and fear in our hearts, parents sent our children back to school. We don’t know when or where gun violence will strike again on school property. We just know it will happen again. What can we do to stop this?
The governor wants SROs in every school in Virginia. Despite emotional support for this, there is no evidence to support that SROs make schools safer, but evidence shows SROs target some students more than others, and are associated with a school to prison pipeline. Also, such a plan will take much needed funds from somewhere else–will education or mental health support be defunded as a result?
Many suggest improved mental health support in schools and community, and better gun controls. Both of these have been proven effective.
Many have suggested that teachers and counselors are key to solving this problem. There is strong evidence that comprehensive teams of trained teachers, staff, and mental health care professionals can keep all kids safe and reduce school shooter threat.
Clearly, this is a complicated and devastating problem that requires an immediate solution. We agree with the experts in the field who called for action after the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting that claimed 17 lives and injured 17 others:
“Although security measures are important, a focus on simply preparing for shootings is insufficient. We need a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention. Prevention entails more than security measures and begins long before a gunman comes to school. We need a comprehensive public health approach to gun violence that is informed by scientific evidence and free from partisan politics.”
The interdisciplinary group suggests proven actions to prevent gun violence at schools:
Universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone, including improvements in school climate to reduce bullying, discrimination, harassment, and assault; combined with bans on assault-style weapons/clips and products that modify semi-automatic firearms to enable them to function like automatic firearms.
Practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties, including: staffing of coordinated school- and community-based mental health services for individuals with risk factors for violence, reform of school discipline, and universal background checks to screen out violent offenders.
Interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent, including threat assessment and communication program teams that include mental health and law enforcement partners; removal of legal barriers to sharing safety-related information among educational, mental health, and law enforcement agencies in cases where a person has threatened violence; and “red flag” laws.
Our children are traumatized by school shootings and school shooting drills. Shouldn’t we do more to protect them, especially when we know how?
If you would like to learn more about school safety, please review the following resources: