The year was 1998, I was 12 years old and in the 6th grade, when I learned about my first school shooting. It was in Springfield, Oregon and high schooler Kip Kinkle first murdered his two parents, followed by two schoolmates and injured 25 others. This event was especially memorable for me because it happened on Thursday and the following day my soccer team played in a tournament on their school grounds. At the time, my young mind struggled to understand the event and how someone could harm others like that. This type of violence was something you saw in the movies, not in real life. These days, the occurrence of school shootings are increasing and kids are preparing and experiencing them at a much younger age than I.
While spending time with my dad last weekend, he asked me if I had seen the CNN segment on the most recent Texas shooting. I said, “No” and he encouraged me to watch it. He said, “Did you know that this was the 22nd shooting in the United States just this year? We aren’t even half way through the year yet! There have also been twice as many deaths from these school shootings than deaths in our armed forces this year.” As he was sharing these statistics, I could tell he was getting riled up. I said, “Well what do we do about it?” He said, “I don’t know but we need to do something and quick”.
Now, I am not trying to get in a big debate about gun control or pushing my views on to anyone but I do want to be a part of starting the conversation for change. These are a few of my ideas, I would love to hear some of yours.
Zero Tolerance for Bullying: I know schools are currently saying they have a zero tolerance and have gone as far as suspending kids for it, however a suspension doesn’t change behavior. When kids are caught bullying they should be required to attend mandatory family counseling. Also victims of bullying are more susceptible to emotional distress and would benefit from professional resources.
Family Counseling: Yup, yup, I said it, “Family Counseling”. After working in adolescent treatment for close to 5 years, I learned that kids behaviors are often indicative of their home environments and adult influences. To change a behavior you must work on the entire environment of the student, not just the student themselves.
Life Skills Development: When I was in high school, my life skills class taught about teen pregnancy. While this was helpful now there are other relevant issues. We should address topics such as understanding, articulating and expressing our emotions. Also teaching kids leadership skills will build their confidence and willingness to stand up for themselves or others.
With the presence of social media and technology developing at such a rapid pace, it is important that we start being proactive rather than reactive. Bullying is real and the old phrase, “sticks and stone can break my bones but words can never hurt me” is a lie. Words do hurt and as a result they can lead to school shootings. I would love to hear your ideas on how we as adults can start being proactive and start leading the change we want to see. If we don’t start doing something, by year end we will have over 45 school shootings just in the US alone. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
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