If mothers could have anything they wanted for Mother’s Day, they would say I want my child to be safe. I want them to be safe at school!
Here’s why they worry they aren’t.
After Sandy Hook, most of us thought the NRA would scale back its rigid position about gun control, especially addressing assault weapons, background checks, age limitations, and so forth. It didn’t happen. It still didn’t happen after Parkland and other school shootings, despite a great outcry by students and many Americans.
After the recent shooting at the Denver STEM School Highlands Ranch, parents and students protested when Sen. Michael Bennett spoke about gun control at a memorial. The event was organized by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
NRA supporters always point to the need for better mental health services. Why aren’t they lobbying for better mental health services for students?
While this country must still address the controversy surrounding guns and school safety, it’s obvious we are divided when it comes to gun control.
Educators and parents cannot wait. Nor should gun control be the only factor.
We must seek other solutions while waiting for some kind of gun control.
School Pressure and School Choice
Students are pushed to compete, to learn beyond their developmental capability.
A parent of a student at the Denver STEM School Highlands Ranch, the charter school where the most recent shooting occurred, called the school a “pressure-cooker.”
They had expressed earlier concern that students weren’t getting enough sleep. The schoolwork was “crushing.” Students acted out. They were stressed. There were reports of violence, bullying, and sexual assault.
The problem with school choice is that mediocrity or failure won’t attract consumers. Parents want schools where students excel. So administrators, push students to achieve more.
Real public schools, which accept all students, must also follow this regimen so they won’t be closed.
This mindset hurts even the youngest learners. Anxiety and stress start early.
Kindergartners must read. High school students must take college level AP classes, or career-technical courses already put students into careers!
Troubled students also show red flags.
Where’s the valve on the pressure cooker?
The New Reality
Questions surround the current steps being used to make schools safer.
Parents, teachers, and children (even the littlest) live in fear of a shooter. Shooter drills teach what to do in a shooting emergency, but how does a five-year-old process this? How traumatizing are the drills themselves? Teens and adults are frightened too.
Some of the drills are bizarre. Last month teachers in Indiana were intentionally shot with rubber bullets!
Gun enthusiasts believe arming teachers is a solution, but it creates a new level of fear.
Parents don’t want their children around guns in school. What happens if a student acts out? What if it’s a child of color, or a student who says the wrong thing at the wrong time? What if a child reaches in their pocket, or lunges at a teacher?
What if a troubled student or students grab the gun from the teacher?
Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law to arm teachers. He knows Floridians think it’s a bad idea.
There’s no proof that arming teachers will save lives in the event of a shooting.
President Trump, who, pretended after Parkland he’d do something about background checks and tougher age limits for gun purchases, reversed his decision. He might tweet his prayers and condolences, but he offers no serious solutions.
Presidential candidates offer little hope.
Last week, Beta O’Rourke was asked about school safety (he had to be asked) by a student at a middle school. He replied:
…the big changes that needed to happen did not come from people who were already in positions of power or trust; it so often came from young people who forced the issue.
Vice President Joe Biden took charge of the response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. But the initiatives failed, and President Obama considered it one of his big “regrets.”
Biden focused on school safety as a senator, authoring the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. But rules don’t stop a shooter.
Where do the other candidates stand on this serious issue? Where are the specifics for schools?
Betsy DeVos’s Missteps Deny Us Answers to Important Questions
One of the reasons flying is safer today, is because every past plane crash taught engineers how to improve planes. Shouldn’t school shootings be treated similarly?
The school safety commission under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has done little to improve school safety.
They started out by announcing there would be no discussion of guns. How can there be a commission about school shootings without a discussion about guns?
DeVos became controversial for rescinding the Obama administration’s discipline guidance concerning the “school-to-prison pipeline.” She relied on a controversial report. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) took her to task.
But the concern was about the guidelines and the Parkland shooting.
After the Parkland shooting, some (mostly Republicans) questioned the guidelines in regard to Nicholas Cruz. Cruz had disabilities. Concern surrounded his years of problematic behavior and whether it was cast aside by school officials and law enforcement due to the new guidelines.
DeVos sidetracked that topic. She put the program in jeopardy instead of fine tuning it!
There were also concerns that FERPA privacy laws let Cruz fall through the cracks. But this notion seemed to be later rejected.
However difficult, it is important to learn from mistakes of the past so they won’t be repeated.
Caring for Students
Smaller class sizes would enable teachers to get to know students, but politicians and gun lobbyists don’t promote smaller class sizes.
What about lowering the size of one class a day? Why not start or end the day with small groups of fifteen students who meet throughout the school, with an adult (administrator, teacher, staff, or parent) who’ve undergone professional development, some psychological training?
Students would get to know the class leader. They would come together with other students. They would be there to help each other.
The class leaders would be trained to recognize troubling behavior, and know who to contact for additional help.
School shootings are not going away. We need to do something!
On this Mother’s Day, no mother is satisfied with how school safety is addressed. They’ll open their gifts, hug their kids, and anxiously hope that their child will return from school the next day.