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How to Prevent the Next School Shooting

Ensure that children are safe in their homes, schools, and community.

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I am a psychologist, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. I, like everyone here, am concerned about school violence and threats of school violence, and I have studied prevention of violence for over 40 years. I have determined that preventing violence is complex. There is no one solution that will solve all the problems associated with Violence, including school shootings, bullying and bomb threats. We need to look at and provide services for the factors drive violent and aggressive behaviors.

We often hear, “Mass shooters are mentally ill.” Don’t let mentally ill people have guns and we have solved the problem. Baloney. Violence is the Perfect Storm of multiple severe problems and poor coping skills coming together at the same time in the same person. A violent person may have many or all of the following: a history of aggression toward others or frequent emotional outbursts, early childhood trauma, exposure to violence in the home, no trauma treatment after violence exposure, mental illness, extreme fascination with weaponry, bullying, difficulty getting along with other people, poor problem solving, substance abuse, and anger management issues. The more of these traits that a young person has, the more likely they are to take out their frustration on other people. But also understand that interventions for those at risk for violence is a science and is backed by research. There are validated tools to help schools and behavioral health clinics to identify and provide services for youth at risk and their families.

First some facts:

  • Incidents of a gun being discharged in a school or college in 2013 to 2015 were 4 per month. In 2018 the rate of school shootings is 8 per month thus far.

Analysis of school shootings by Every Town give us this info:

  • Most school shooters are male.
  • 79% obtained guns at home.
  • In schools where there was a shooting, the average student standardized test scores dropped by nearly 5%.
  • The US Department of Education stated that In 2009-2010, a young person brought a gun to a school somewhere in the US almost every school day.
  • People were concerned with the behavior, dangerousness, and mental health of Adam Lanza, Seng Hui Cho, the Parkland shooter, and many other mass shooters long before the actual shooting took place.

Solutions that have been suggested include:

  • Arming teachers.
  • More gun control.
  • Those that are mentally ill and have been hospitalized not be allowed to buy a gun.
  • More security at schools.
  • More metal detectors at schools.
  • Involuntary treatment of those with MI that are found to be dangerous or have committed a violent act.

There is merit to many of the suggestions above. However, they are not complete nor sufficient

I advocate for the following:

The evidence and school based Behavioral Health models were facilitated locally by ESPS in Talbot County about 7 or 8 years ago. We have research showing its success and it has been replicated by many schools.

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Research on the lifelong trajectory of violence has shown that some youth that have experienced trauma in early childhood show symptoms of severe behavior problems, aggression, and mental health issues in elementary school. These youth should be referred for assessment as well as trauma, skill building, and family based treatment before adolescence. If these problems continue into adolescence, risk reduction planning is essential.

Validated violence risk assessment tools should be in every school and risk reduction plans should be used by every therapist in every public and private agency. Treating other people with dignity and respect is essential, such as the Operation Respect program that promotes the song heard around the world, “Don’t Laugh at me.” There is also a social action committee in a local middle school that promotes a STAR group which is "Students Talking About Race." it been very successful. Eliminating Bullying in schools will reduce violence by using programs such as the Olweus Bullying Program. Everytown and Sandy Hook Promise teach children to practice “See something , say something.” Emphasizes the importance of diversity and Inclusion of all children and has a program, “First Say Hello.” Yellow Ribbon has a suicide prevention program called “It is OK to Ask for Help.”

Violence, abuse and severe neglect in childhood are more strongly linked to violence later in life, than Mental Illness.

So here are the facts:

  • The highest rates of child abuse in the world are in Australia and the US.
  • Countries with the highest rates of child sexual abuse are South Africa, India, Zimbabwe, UK, and the US.

We must see that all children are safe in their homes, schools and communities and receive trauma treatment when needed.

How do we stop violence in this country? It is by stopping childhood abuse and neglect in its many forms.

We need to do more.

Let’s start now.

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