Parkland Florida. Valentine’s Day, 2018. Another mass shooting. Countless lives and dreams shattered. See something, say something was not enough. We also need to do something. Arming teachers is not the solution. Prevention, stronger action on domestic violence, and banning semi-automatic weapons all need to be addressed. Stoneham Douglas High School students are leading the charge to change gun laws and ban semi-automatic weapons. How can you help your kids - and yourself - deal with the stress of wondering where the next school shooting will be?
I’m joining my voice with the millions of others saying #Enough. The National School Walkout statement says "students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school. Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day."
I think back to my 13 years of teaching preschool. Carrying around a wiggly kid while packing a gun? I don’t think so! Playing in the sandbox with a gun strapped to my ankle? Doubt it!
Where does a teacher even keep a gun when wearing a dress?
Good grief, the thought of sitting at circle time teaching about kindness while being ready to shoot to kill simply boggles my mind.
Arming teachers is not the solution. Teachers are already overworked and underpaid. They don’t have extra time for gun training. Would other essential training be cut back to instead?
What happens when a teacher accidentally shoots a student? Would they be suspended pending an investigation? Would kids and parents be okay sending studentss back into the classroom after the teacher shot someone?
C’mon. This makes no sense at all.
Let teachers be teachers, students be students, and police be police.
- Listen. Understand their fears, pain and worries.
- Acknowledge and validate their concerns and fears, as well as your own.
- Get into a calmer space before you talk to your kids about lockdowns and incidents. Be the voice of calm in the storm. Breathe deeply, and pause. Use an app like headspace to practice meditation and mindfulness.
- Keep healthy parenting boundaries. Avoid sharing feelings of panic or anxiety with them. Talk to an adult friend about your stress, instead of the children.
- Meet your kids where they’re at. Don’t overload them with more than they are ready for (think of 5-year olds who ask where babies come from - they aren’t asking for all of the details).
- Calmly go over the school’s emergency plan with your children.
- Create a family emergency plan - code words, contact information, etc.
- Empower your kids to take action.
- Take what your kids say seriously. Treat any reported threats seriously.
- Understand how bullying and domestic violence factor into school violence.
- See something, say something, do something. If you’re not being heard, escalate.
- Learn about the school’s safety procedures. Will drills be announced in advance? How do they recommend preparing students? Not all details will be shared for security purposes. Trust but verify. Listen to what your kids tell you about school events, drill and procedures. Verify accuracy.
- Knowledge is empowering. Like studying for a test, people are better prepared when they know what is expected from them.
- Vote with your dollars. If you support common sense gun laws, support businesses that align with your views.
- If you own guns, be sure they are safely locked and inaccessible to anyone without permission. Lock down guns and ammunition separately. Follow recommended protocols.
- Check the gun laws in your state at http://every.tw/2tgimVw
- Understand that there are many experiences that kids (and you) may have had which will trigger anxiety. History or exposure to violence can trigger anxiety or panic attacks during practices. Seek professional help if appropriate to work through these feelings.
- Speak about your concerns in a way that is empowering, and avoid people who create a feeling of panic. Focus on how to make the world a safer place.
I can’t imagine my daughter’s field hockey coach shooting someone. She was a gentle soul who wore white Keds and a straw hat on the field, and carried a straw basket (yes, how adorably non-threatening!) filled with sunscreen and bandaids. She taught the girls to “play nice” by winning graciously and letting the other team score too. Carrying a gun wouldn’t work here.
Or my high school physics teacher who had a bit of a mean streak. He gleefully slammed a ruler on the lab during exams, laughing at the way we jumped. I can see him with a gun. Not in a good way.
Maybe my chemistry teacher? She often took off one shoe and banged it on the desk while pleading “Class, class! Please. Pay attention!” She had trouble with everyday class control and cried often. A gun for her? No way!
In the past, schools doors weren't locked. Fast forward to 2018. Schools have routine active shooter drills. Some have sophisticated security, including livestream cameras monitored by police. Safety is a huge financial investment, which many school districts simply cannot afford. None of this security will necessarily stop someone hell-bent on killing with an AR-15 quickly enough.
The Parkland community repeatedly voiced concerns about the shooter, and notified school, police and FBI officials before the attack. There were many domestic incidents, some involving guns.
Yet the signs of domestic violence, as well as the threats to students were not taken seriously enough.
The gunman legally purchased the AR-15 he used in the shooting. There’s no reason for this kid, or any civilian, to own a semi-automatic gun.
People did see something. They did say something. The school was protected by an armed guard. Four armed guards remained outside the school until the shooting was over. A pistol is no match for an AR-15. None of these steps prevented the attack.
There’s a common thread around mass shootings. Historically, these shooters have a history of violence against women. This was true at Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and many more schools. Also true at the Colorado movie theater where my daughter’s friend survived being shot, the Fort Lauderdale airport, the Orlando nightclub, the Texas church, the outdoor concert in Las Vegas, and too many more. Each of the killers had a history of domestic or intimate personal violence.
It's ridiculous to imagine putting additional responsibility on teachers to be armed and prepared to shoot people they think are a threat, putting innocent bystanders standing at risk. Armed security guards with training did not enter the building. Pistols are no match to AR-15s.
Expecting a teacher to multi-task classroom instruction while being ready to identify danger and use a gun is an all-around bad idea.
Teachers and students deserve a safe, secure environment that nurtures learning. Shooting students, parents, teachers or anyone else should not be in a teacher's job description. Police are trained to defuse situations, using guns as a last resort.
Let teachers be teachers, students be students, and police be police.
The senseless killings need to be addressed on many levels: banning semi-automatic weapons; domestic violence; individual, family, community, peer and social risk factors like bullying, security, and stronger responses to tips and red flags.
Survivors are burdened with reliving their trauma when they testify in court. Every time there’s another shooting, survivors and families are re-traumatized. It’s safe to say that everyone involved in shootings experiences trauma to differing degrees, including students, teachers, doctors, first responders, funeral directors and news reporters.
We hear over and over again the importance of “see something, say something.” That happened, and it wasn’t enough. It’s time for action. There are national and local events planned everywhere to support the #NeverAgain movement (see box for a few). Get involved today!
Stoneham Douglas students, joined by others around the country, are determined to ban semi-automatic weapons to make sure that this will #NeverAgain happen. School safety is not a political issue. These teenagers are the voice of reason and change. It’s coming. We deserve a safer country, where we can raise children to believe in making the world a better place.
Keep listening to your children. Hug them. Their worries and fears are legitimate. Empower them by letting them know that you, the schools and the community are taking steps to increase safety. Become a changemaker to bring an end to gun violence and bullying (see box for a few suggestions). Vote. Be your children’s strongest advocate.
Let’s make #NeverAgain our mantra, and move forward with more peace. The change won’t happen tomorrow, but it is already happening. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like support with parenting confidently through the very real stresses of today’s world.
National School Walkout 3/14/18
17 minute walkout organized by Women’s March, recognizing each of the 17 victims of Stoneham Douglas High School. Many high schools and colleges support this walkout.
March for Our Lives 3/24/18
March in Washington or in your community. Mission and purpose is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues. Supports second right amendments, with common sense gun laws.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Nonpartisan group founded by a mom after the Sandy Hook shootings to supporting the second amendment while pushing for common sense gun laws.
Denise Fountain is a Life Transitions Specialist and Certified Professional Coach. She works with women going through transitions to rediscover themselves and create lives that are happy, healthy and whole again. Together with her clients, she explores the connection between stress, health and happiness, and guides her clients to move forward to make lasting and sustainable changes.
Denise is passionate about helping women live their best lives. Denise provides coaching for clients living anywhere by phone or Skype, and is available for speaking engagements and workshops. Sign up for updates. Contact her at email@example.com to learn more about how Denise can partner with you to create the life you dream of.