What our communities can do to help protect our kids
by Carol Bridge
As a former teacher I have participated in several trainings meant to prepare staff for when the shooter comes to school. Not if, but when. In the light of the most recent shootings it is time for us to consider the horrific possibilities and to attempt, as a community, to avoid and prevent such a tragedy from happening where we live and where our children attend school. These shootings can happen anywhere. It is not difficult to imagine that we have potential school shooters right here and close to home. What are we, as a community, going to do to prevent it?
It is a mistake to think that schools are able to always recognize and help the kids most likely to snap – falling budgets, staff layoffs, threats to social safety nets, and lack of mental health personnel all act to affect what schools are able to do. So communities must step up and help; this community must step up and help.
There are two main things that protect children from moving into these violent attitudes and behaviors. The first is in having a strong and functioning family, and the second is succeeding in school. How many children in our communities are missing one or both those factors? It only takes one.
As citizens, we cannot interfere in families, but we can provide other opportunities for children to belong, feel nurtured and influenced in positive ways. We can provide family-like places for kids to belong and we must be sure to target the kids who are most at risk. We can do this by supporting and funding such organizations as the Boy and Girl Scouts, 4-H, the Young Marines, school activities and church groups that provide activities for children. We need to gather more kids into these groups and support them generously. These groups provide them with a nurturing place to belong, clear moral guidelines, support for achievements, and a chance to have a healthy relationship with a caring adult. Service organizations could pledge to support these kids with uniforms, activity expenses, recognition – and to support the leaders with financial help. Ask anyone who has ever been a scout leader or a 4-H leader what it costs them not only in time but also financially to serve children.
We can also help children succeed in school by providing easier access to books and learning in the community and by providing rewards and public support of their efforts. Further efforts at improving literacy rates and attitudes towards education should be undertaken. One idea is building a dedicated children’s library, and rewarding kids for every step taken.
As a community, we need to leave no child behind, alone, or out. We do a great job with high achieving children BUT we need to do everything in our power to make sure that the struggling children are better supported. We need to come together; service organizations, social services, churches, and schools, and act together. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the shooter never comes to our towns.