It’s not a single issue.
It’s not a soundbite.
It’s not a quick fix.
But it is possible to prevent school shootings.
As we take pause and reflect on the first anniversary of the Oxford High School shooting, many are looking backward to try and make sense of this senseless violence. Starr Commonwealth is looking forward as we work to equip teachers to build communities were children feel safe, understood and empowered.
But how to do that? The national mental health emergency has led to a severe shortage in trained counselors, often thrusting teachers into a role for which they are ill-prepared. The trauma created by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact students, families and classrooms. The continued threat of school shootings further extends toxic stress so many are feeling.
At Starr Commonwealth, we recognize that trauma – any experience in a child’s life that leaves them feeling hopeless, helpless and stuck – impacts how children feel, behave, learn, view and interact with others and themselves. Schools provide an opportune system for early intervention and prevention.
Recognizing and understanding the signs of trauma in children changes the way adults respond. Rather than punishing a child for an inappropriate behavior, a trauma-informed educator will look behind that behavior to understand the root cause – divorce, sexual abuse, domestic violence or any of a host of factors.
Our work offers educators practical things they can do in their classrooms to connect with kids who are hurting and angry. I’m convinced our work can – and does – prevent school shootings.
Understanding trauma and building resilience in children improves the climate of a school, boosts academic achievement and tests scores and improves graduation rates. It reduces student outbursts, bullying, harassment, fights and other issues that create stress for staff and students.
Left unchecked, trauma and toxic stress can lead to unspeakable outcomes. We only have to open the newspaper or turn on the television to see this played out, week after week across our bruised and aching country.
But it is possible to prevent school shootings – and the time to take action is now.