Looking back, do any of you ever remember having to perform intruder drills in school or hearing about the latest school shooting on the news? I don’t! They didn’t happen! What has happened to our society this century? Why are mass shootings so prevalent? What or who is to blame? What should we do to solve this problem?
Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, Facebook has been lit up with people voicing their opinions on how to handle this crisis. People are calling for more gun control, banning assault rifles and more counselors in schools. Fingers have been pointed at parents not disciplining their children correctly, mental disorders, drug abuse, guns, politicians, officers and schools.
First of all, let me just say that every parent, grandparent, student, etc. that has yelled, cursed, screamed and cried over this on social media, or elsewhere, has every right! We are all scared and we feel powerless! However, fighting each other is not going to fix the situation. Regardless of what political views you possess, there are some actions that, we as parents and a community, can take that are neutral and beneficial! We can start taking some control over this situation!
I will discuss four areas in which parents and schools can take action to improve our society: community, security, research and family. Please read until the end.
First things first, we have to stop fighting each other. We are too busy, as a society, trying to push our own political opinions that nothing is ever accomplished, with the exception of an ever widening gap between political parties! Second, we need to come together as a community. Growing up, our church was the hub of our community. People knew people because we went to church and school together. I think this is part of our problem today. There is no central force pulling us together. Too many of us go into our houses, close our garage doors and never really talk or get to know our neighbors. Furthermore, our schools are too big! My second grader has had a different set of classmates each year that he has been in elementary school! How do we expect our children to build lasting relationships if they have to make new friends each school year? So, what are some solutions?
- School sponsored activities – Get your school to set up play groups or clubs to help students get together outside of school. We are still in elementary school, so I’m not sure how it works in middle or high school, but our biggest avenue for getting to know other families at our school is through scouts! While there are plenty of clubs and sports outside of schools for kids to join, it does not seem to me that there are many sponsored by the schools. In addition to helping the student body get to know each other, it helps build school pride. As I stated previously, there needs to be a hub of the community. School sponsored activities would help strengthen the bond of the general and school population.
- Encourage your child to have face or phone time with their friends – Don’t just let your child socialize over texting, Facebook or other social media. Kids don’t have enough time in school to really socialize and they need (as do adults) actual conversations and true interactions with other people their age!
- Encourage your school to set up support groups – There are many parents that have sons and daughters that have disorders that they really need a network of other parents going through similar situations. Raising someone with any type of special need is difficult! Likewise, children need a support group too! Having someone to talk to that is going through the same things helps a person cope with life’s challenges!
- Encourage your school to extend recess time – In my opinion, many children in school don’t receive an optimal amount of recess time. Recess helps children in multiple ways. To name a few, it helps build focus, social skills and reduce stress.
- Get to know your neighbors – Getting to know your neighbor is the first step in building a safe community. I grew up in a neighborhood that most definitely went through its rough patches and the way our block came out of it was by organizing a block watch. We reported suspicious behavior, held block parties and watched each others backs and houses! Criminals don’t stand a chance when they are fighting an entire community!
- Establish a relationship with your local law enforcement – Building a relationship with your local law enforcement is equally important in building a strong community. It allows the community to voice their concerns, ask questions and get to know the individual officers that serve their community. It is equally beneficial for the officers as it allows them to impart wisdom to the community that may save lives, gain intelligence of possible threats and get to know the individuals who make up the community.
- Be a good neighbor and citizen – “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me”. That is how the song goes and how we should really start living out our lives! The next time you are at the store or office, hold the door open for someone. Say hello and smile as you pass by someone on the street. Show some empathy to someone that is down on his luck. Be a courteous driver! Remember your manners, particularly when in front of your children. Slow down to talk to someone. Be kind to your friends on social media. If we want peace on this earth, then we need to start with ourselves!
Why are so many of our schools being gunned down? They are easy targets! They have no defenses! Growing up in a rough neighborhood, the number one rule I learned was, “Don’t make yourself an easy target”. We locked our doors, we didn’t leave money on the carseat and we didn’t walk alone. Criminals look for easy targets! So, how do we stop attacks? Let’s look back through history. They built castles with huge walls and forts that had soldiers guarding the entrances. We don’t have to build a castle, but we can make our schools safer!
- Waiting areas – Schools need to start modifying their lobbies or offices so that parents or anyone entering the building has to stay in a waiting area during school hours. The entrance to the school and office would be locked, thereby restricting access to the staff and the students. Many schools keep their outer doors locked, but once someone is buzzed into the main lobby or office, there is nothing preventing them from going further into the school.
- Bullet proof glass – It sounds expensive and maybe extreme, but it could save lives! Placing bullet proof glass in a lobby or office could prevent an intruder from getting any further into the building.
- Doors leading into bathrooms – Not all schools have doors to their bathrooms. They have doors on the stalls, but nothing to close the bathroom off from the hall. Adding doors to the bathrooms could save a student’s life if they are in the bathroom during an intruder attack!
- Surveillance cameras – Having eyes on your entryways and parking lots would allow staff to spot suspicious behavior or maybe even an intruder, loading up a gun, getting ready to enter into the building! The downside is that you have to have someone watching it. It could however cut down on crime, bullying on the playground or vandalism on campus.
- Metal detectors – Many schools have implemented these already and help safeguard the schools from attacks by students.
- Self defense training – Talk to your school about holding seminars or classes for parents and students to learn self defense techniques. Self defense techniques may help if someone were to come into more personal contact with an intruder. Parents that are volunteering in the school for the day may need to know the procedures if an intruder should enter the building. Remember, intruder drills are new to this century!
Rather than spending our time bickering over social media, getting ready to toss the first stone at who or what we think is the cause to this problem, we should be spending our time researching the problem!
- Correlation – What is the correlation between all of these shootings? How old was the perpetrator? What was the sex, age and race? Did they have a mental disorder? Did a major stressful life event play a part? Was substance abuse a factor? Did the crime happen in a public or private setting? How big was the school? Did the student or former student get overlooked because the school was too big?
- Motives – What are the motives? This is a big one! Many people are too focused on how the shooters killed masses of people and not necessarily on why. Unfortunately, if a person or group of persons is truly motivated to kill, they will use whatever means necessary (ex. 9/11, running down people with vehicles, bombs, etc.).
Connect with your Family
This is the most important one of all! It is also the area that we, as parents, have the most control over. Peace in this world has to start at home! If you work to spread peace in your home, then your family will be more likely to spread peace when they leave the home!
- Know your child’s circle of friends and their parents – Talk to your children about who they like to spend time with at school. Set up a playdate or have your child invite their friends over. Invite the child’s family over or meet at a neutral place and have some fun. Becoming acquainted with your child’s circle of friends allows you to gain insight into your child’s and friend’s interests, any problems they may be experiencing and what kind of family life their friend has at home. It also allows you to be a good influence for your child’s friend. Not every child comes from a happy home and they should not be punished for it. Every child deserves a chance at happiness! You never know what kind of influence you might have on child, just by being a positive role model!
- Spend some one on one time with your child – Have some bonding time with your child. Go out on a date with your child. Have some fun and learn what makes them truly happy! Talk to them over a slice of pizza or some ice cream. When you take time to connect with your child and share some of what’s going on in your life, they will be more likely to share what’s going on in their life.
- Spend some time with your spouse or significant other – Make sure you take time to reconnect with your partner in life. If the two of you are not on the same page, it can create significant amounts of stress in the home. Take a moment to kick back, laugh, talk and rekindle some romance!
- Give yourself some down time – Everyone needs a break! Make sure you give yourself some time to pursue your own interests, regain some perspective and find some inner peace. It’s hard to be a good parent if you’re not happy and are completely exhausted. Find a way to relax!
- Get help – If you, your spouse or your child need help, get the tools and assistance necessary to live healthy, happy lives! If money is an issue, talk to someone in your community that can maybe guide you to some assistance.
- Pray together – When you take time to pray together as a family, and as a community, not only do you reflect on what is happening in your life and share it with your family and community, but you also learn what is happening in your family members’ and community members’ lives. When we have this knowledge, we are more likely to come together to help solve problems, give comfort when needed, celebrate good times or praise God and be happy for all that we have.
- Cherish every moment you have with your family – We never know when a moment will be our last with a family member. Take a step back from your busy schedule, breathe and look at your child or your spouse in awe. Remember why they are so special to you. Have some fun with your family and build some good memories together!
Let’s do this! We can make our society, our schools and our country great again. We need to slow down in this busy world and really look at what the problems are around us and start working together towards peaceful solutions. We need to put our focus back into our families, ourselves and our communities. We need to encourage schools to build up long lasting relationships among students, so as to nurture students’ social and emotional sides, as well as their intellectual. We need to use some of those tax dollars and fundraisers to not only purchase new equipment or beautify the schools, but to modify our school buildings to make them safer and put many minds at ease! Let’s stop this trend of mass killings in our schools and make the 21st century a time of peace and high intellectual achievement!