5 things we DO know in the school shooting debate
I can’t understand why anyone would want to kill kids and school teachers. In a world consumed at times by evil and incomprehensible acts, there is something particularly despicable about the fact that our children can no longer feel safe doing art projects or learning algebra.
There is lots of misinformation masquerading as explanations for this problem. Here is what we know about these evil acts.
1. Schools are incredibly safe places for our kids. These shootings get lots of attention, but statistically speaking schools are among the safest places for our kids. Let’s not overreact to the media attention and stay focused on the many other serious threats to our kids’ welfare.
2. Use our resources wisely. The billions of dollars spent on school security means less is allocated to teachers and counselors. The uncomfortable reality is that there is little evidence that these extra security measures are effective, and in many cases only increases kids’ unfounded anxiety. Let’s take reasonable precautions but not exaggerate this issue.
3. Take warning signs seriously. It’s easy to look through the rear-view mirror and predict many of these vile acts. However, there is now increasing evidence that the perpetrators of these shootings exhibited many signs of serious dysfunction. We need to do a better job of reading and reacting to these signals.
Pay attention to messages posted on social media by your child. For many kids, their art projects and school essays are a reflection of their mental state. Take verbal threats seriously. This is not just a responsibility of parents and teachers, but also of coaches, clergy, and all of us who interact with children. When in doubt, seek help.
4. Lock up the guns. School shootings are rarely impulsive acts, but rather planned and purposeful. Most of these perpetrators had access to guns from parents or friends. If you have guns, take extraordinary measures to prevent access for kids.
Please don’t tell me that if guns kill people, then forks and spoons must cause obesity and pencils misspell words. I know that guns don’t cause violence, but easy access is a significant factor in these events.
5. Pay attention to our kids’ mental health. People with mental health problems are more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators of violence. However, one analysis of school shooters conducted by Dr. Peter Langman concluded that there are three categories of shooters---traumatized shooters from terrible family backgrounds, psychotic individuals, and psychopaths. We need to learn how to identify and reach out to these youth.
Let’s put more resources into helping these kids when they are young, rather than lamenting their horrific acts after they occur.