Valentine’s Day is for lovers, not shooters.
And these school shootings, they just keep happening. The shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 was one of seven (not 18) intentional shootings that occurred during normal school hours in America this year. That’s one school shooting a week so far in 2018. This is not okay.
To address the problem of gun violence, most people seem to focus on two solutions: gun control and mental health screenings. The good news is they’re talking about the topic. The bad news is nothing is getting accomplished. No thing.
Honestly, I’m not hopeful that progress will be made in either area. I abhor all school shootings but one in particular really got to me.
If gun control legislation wasn’t passed after the Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012 where 20 precious children, 6-7 years old, and six adult staff members were murdered, what hope is there?
Instead of continuing to yell into the swirling political toilet, perhaps our energy would be better spent addressing the problem from a different angle, or angles.
Might I suggest:
Brainstorming, Crowdsourcing, and Googling, Oh My!
There has to be a better way, a work-around, I thought as I scrawled possibilities on scratch paper.
I also texted and emailed friends: “I’m looking for super duper out-of-the-box ideas on how to prevent school shootings and/or how to minimize the damage if/when a shooter does get inside a school. Thoughts?”
They Googled. I Googled. They sent links to articles which I read. I learned a ton about school shootings and guns and human nature.
I also debunked theories—mine and my friends.
I thought surely violent video games lead to school shootings. Not so. According to Rolling Stone, “Those who perpetrate acts of violence in schools are more than three times less likely to play violent video games than an average high school student.”
One friend believed bullying might cause distressed students to plot violence. It seemed plausible to me. Wrong. A review of 48 school shooting cases showed a) only one shooter intentionally tracked down a bully and b) most school shooters targeted staff or female students.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t deal with bullies. Bullying is awful in its own right.
There’s no such thing as a stupid idea.
Keeping with the brainstorming philosophy that every idea has some merit, at least initially, I spent a day trying to come up with solutions to this murder mystery.
Here are my results, presented in random fashion.
Make them pay.
Some folks suggest the US government buy back as many AR-15s as possible. Like Australia did.
At first glance, this seems like a promising solution since according to Politifact.com, “semi-automatic rifles similar to the AR-15 have been used in high-profile and deadly mass shootings over the years in Aurora, Colo.; Roseburg, Ore.; San Bernadino, Calif.; Newtown, Conn.; Orlando; and in 2017, Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas…”
However, the same article states: “There are somewhere between 6 million and 10 million of these semi-automatic rifles in circulation in the United States.” That’s a daunting number of weapons to find and buy back.
Going forward, I propose we double the price of semi-automatic weapons.
In hopes that sales will wane. Hey, it’s working for cigarettes.
Say we double the average price of weapons like the AR-15 (FYI, they start at $600-700, as of 2016). And AR, by the way, does not stand for “assault rifle.” AR means “Armalite rifle.”
We could use the difference earned to fund school safety measures. And medical trauma research which, according to this article, is woefully inadequate. Which, according to the path we’re on, we will need a whole lot of.
As long as AR-15s are easily available in the world, they will to continue to do their unique kind of damage. Read this article in The Atlantic to learn what a surgeon who worked on Parkland, Florida victims discovered during her time in the operating room.
No time to read her findings? Here are a few quotes from Dr. Sher. Warning: These quotes may disturb.
“In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ.” With an AR-15 wound, “The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding.” As was the case in Florida in February 2018, “There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.”
At the cellular level
How about we let teachers collect cell phones at the beginning of each period? They can hang a shoe-bag over their classroom door for each kid to drop their phone into at the beginning of class.
With no Snapchatting and texting going on, hopefully the kids will engage more with the subject material, not to mention with their teachers, and also, their fellow students.
Community is the antidote to isolation. Isolation being one factor in school shootings, according to this fascinating article, “Inside the Mind of School Shooters.”
In Atul Gawande’s fantastic book, Being Mortal, the author speaks of a young doctor who introduced dogs, cats, birds, and plants to a nursing home. The effects were nothing less than miraculous.
“People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking…” “People who had been completely withdrawn and nonambulatory started coming to the nurses’ station and saying, ‘I’ll take the dog for a walk.'”
As a result of this “experiment,” the number of prescriptions at this facility fell to half that of the control nursing home. And, “Deaths fell by 15%.”
Dr. Bill Thomas, the physician behind this plan, said, “I believe that the difference in death rates can be traced to the fundamental human need for a reason to live.”
In one of my posts on aging parents, I mentioned seniors needing “community, purpose, and hope.” But really, don’t we all, regardless of age?
Heck, I’d be willing to head up that program!
Mickey D’s–No Place for Old Men
Next time you’re in a McDonald’s on a weekday morning, look around. If your Mickey D’s is like the one near us, there will be at least one table occupied by a gaggle of retired guys drinking coffee and solving the problems of the world. And chatting with everyone who walks by.
What if we put a small cafe near the front door and office of each school? The retired guys could keep an eye on things. They could learn the names of the students, maybe even help with homework. Give love advice. How about that for purpose?
This was another of the concepts discussed in Being Mortal: the mingling of generations. Gawande examined a senior living facility with a private K-8 school attached. Here, the seniors tutor and act as school librarians. During lessons on World War II, veterans visit classrooms. In addition, seniors are able to attend school functions like musical performances and art shows.
I’ve never forgotten something I read in Parents magazine as a young mother. “Children need grown-ups in their lives, besides their parents and their family members, who love them. Parents have to love you. But if another adult loves you ‘just because,’ well, that must mean you’re worth loving.”
My friend who works at Virginia Tech suggests training students in the virtues of compassion, empathy, and resilience. What a fantastic idea! All these virtues will come in handy not just during the K-12 years, but throughout a lifetime.
At one point last year, I remember reading a Denzel Washington quote: “You can’t be hateful when you’re feeling grateful.” I also blogged about the benefits of gratitude in my post on journaling. Maybe we should add gratitude-training to the list of skills to master.
Mind Your Manners
“By longstanding tradition, members of the W&L community regularly say “hello” to one another, whether passing on the Colonnade or meeting in the Commons. This simple courtesy, which affects and reflects the warmth and civility of life on campus, is also extended to visitors, who instantly feel a part of the community.”
This would be a valuable custom to require, one that would reinforce the sense of community in the halls of each school.
Bigger Is Not Better
Perhaps we should go back to smaller schools. For a couple of reasons. This article shows several benefits associated with a smaller student-to-teacher ratio.
In addition to an improved academic environment, surely it would improve the emotional atmosphere as well. Overcrowded classrooms lead to overworked teachers, teachers who have less time to get to know their students, including their struggles and victories, well.
In addition, one of my friends, a high school teacher, spoke of the problems of overcrowding at her school. Originally built to accommodate 1,000 students, the school now enrolls 1,800. In between classes and during fire drills, overcrowded stairwells present at the very least, an inconvenience. However, this inconvenience could become deadly if the school ever needs to be evacuated due to a real threat.
He Who Shall Not Be Named
Many publications have decided, as The Daily Wire did, to no longer publish names or photos of mass shooters. Here’s why:
“It has become increasingly clear in recent years that the value of public knowledge regarding specific names and photographs of mass shooters is significantly outweighed by the possibility of encouraging more mass shootings. Studies suggest that media coverage of mass shootings can have a significant impact on the psyches of potential mass shooters — that such potential mass shooters have a cognitive craving for attention, which they know they will receive for committing atrocities.”
The website, don’tnamethem.org, out of Texas State University, is a great spot to read more on the subject.
I would say also, the naming of the mass murderer shames the shooter’s family. Surely, the families experience enough disgrace and grief without adding the criticism of an entire country.
A Blueprint for Shooting Up Schools
If you want to have your mind blown, watch this astounding and brilliant 10-minute video from Malcom Gladwell of The NewYorker. Don’t have time? Here’s the premise: The Columbine massacre “lays down the script for how school shootings are supposed to work.”
Gladwell also cites evidence showing that, “Of the 12 major school shootings that happen after Columbine, more than half explicitly reference Columbine… and are in some sense, reinactments.”
For this reason, perhaps we should consider removing all Columbine-related videos and articles from the on-line space. Just a thought…
One Teacher’s Brilliant Idea
One teacher, in the aftermath of Columbine, came up with a process for identifying disconnected kids. You can read Glennon Doyle Melton’s post about the teacher’s method here.
Another way to notice and help troubled kids might be to add a line-item or comment-block to report cards. During each grading period, teachers could use this space to note worrisome observations. This way, parents and guardians would stay informed. And, the student would see people are concerned, and watching.
I hesitate to put more work on teachers, many who are already overburdened, but my gut tells me, many are already doing this in some fashion.
I saw the sign…
Teenagers can be self-absorbed. With themselves, friends, crushes, their phones, maybe even homework.
The folks at sandyhookpromise.org believe in training kids to “see the signs,” specifically signs of isolation, depression, potential for violence. According to their website, the YouTube video, “Evan” that they created for this purpose, has been viewed over 45 million times.
Regarding the correlation between violence and mental health, Politifact mentioned this: “A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that databases that track gun homicides show that less than 5 percent of 120,000 gun-related killings in America between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people with a diagnosed mental illness.”
No one is denying that these shooters are mentally ill. The sticking point is the fact that 95% of them had no recorded diagnosis. If I have my facts correct about existing and/or proposed gun-control legislation, a diagnosis is the thing needed to prevent a disturbed individual from purchasing weapons. Case in point, the shooter in Parkland, Florida purchased his weapon(s) legally.
According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, lots of kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were calling the soon-to-be murderer of many, “the school shooter.” According to several sources, everyone knew he was headed for trouble.
His situation was not unique. Often after a shooting, people will admit they knew what the killer was planning. The article quotes a 2004 federal study of shootings which found in “81 percent of the incidents, at least one person had information that the attacker was thinking about or planning a school attack.”
So why the heck don’t they tell the police? Jeff Daniels, a professor of counseling psychology at West Virginia University, was quoted in the article saying, “one reason students don’t tell teachers or administrators about potential threats is because of a ‘code of silence’ that can exist among young people. Students sometimes don’t want to be seen as a ‘snitch.’”
I say bribe the kids to speak up if they know something horrific is going to go down. If necessary, incentivize them to save lives. If you have to pay someone $5,000 or more for an anonymous tip to save multiple lives, do it.
Bring in the experts
The Sandy Hook Promise program was founded by parents who lost children in the Sandy Hook Massacre. Their mission is to send out teams to schools and communities to help “Prevent gun violence before it starts.” Their presentations are FREE.
You can watch a video about bringing their progam to your school here.
In the late 80s Tony Bear and I moved from Washington D.C. to Cincinnati. We relocated mainly because at the beginning of that particular year, D.C. had an exceptionally high murder rate. Plus they put metal detectors in their schools. Ew, scary!
Then when we left Cincinnati in November 1993, Cincinnati was installing metal detectors in their schools. For this reason, we were happy to leave. We didn’t want our kids to attend schools needing that kind of security measures. Best to move someplace smaller, safer.
The truth is, no place is safe these days. Most, if not all, airports now have metal detectors. Courthouses too. Why do we choose to protect travelers and lawyers with metal detectors but not our own children?
You can read the facts about metal detectors in schools in this article. I vote we install them. In every school in America.
“You shall not pass!”
My friend who works at a maximum security prison says: “In today’s world, it would be prudent to set up some sort of gate system at the schools with armed/trained security. A shooter would not only have to make it past the security, they would have to make it past the gates. This security force could/would also be trained to look for and notice suspicious behavior in order to stop things before they start. My suggestion would be veterans and ex-law-enforcement officers. Many already have the training and have already proven that they are more than willing to protect those weaker than themselves.”
I know that thought may scare you, but here’s the thing. There’s a saying that goes, “There are three kinds of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.”
As a parent of three children (one who is a teacher married to a teacher) and a someday, hopefully, grandmother of many, I’m all for having a “sheepdog” at the entrance of our schools at all times. Armed or not, I want this individual to be professionally trained to handle a hostile individual or group trying to gain access to our children and the people who teach and serve them. Someone who is willing to sustain injury so our loved ones don’t have to.
And I will pray
I have been and I will continue to pray for this situation despite the fact prayer is an activity some deem “useless.” To that I say: “Procurring gun-control. How’s that working for you?”
There you go—a day’s worth of brainstorming ideas on how to decrease the number of school shootings. Surely you have some thoughts too. Please share them down below in the comment section.
To read more school shooting solutions, read this.