I recently participated in a school and gun safety panel hosted by the Hamilton County Democrat Club. After giving one of my positions of relooking at plans and developing them further for active shooter events to keep students and staff safer, the students and crowd started making some good comments and asking great questions.
The first comment was the students and parents did not want the schools to feel like prisons. Fortifying the schools with police or armed guards made them feel more anxiety going back to school. One of my solutions was prevention classes that start in elementary school that teach kids how to deal with stress and difficult life situations. If we can help students learn to deal with triggers, maybe we can help prevent them from going down that road of violence.
Second, they felt disconnected. One student said after the Noblesville school shooting, in which she was at the school when it happened and heard the shots, their solution was to bring in counselors. The student told us that the counselor was in the room for a few minutes to talk about coping techniques such as talking with friends, journaling and reaching out to teachers and parents. If that did not work, there is a school counselor who might have time to help. If you needed more than that, you could talk to your parents and they can arrange appointments with mental health services outside of school.
One of the panelists told us that when their school had a car accident that resulted in a death that the school had chaplains, mental health and volunteers in the school for a week. They also had a memorial service at the school where the kids could have a time to reflect and talk about their feelings and thoughts aloud if they so desired with each other.
After listening to the parents and students, I feel even more strongly that we need adult volunteer mentors from the community and classes on how to deal with life stresses and how to deal with situations in a non-violent way. The community needs to be part of the school, not separated from it. If we separate the school from the community, the students will become more stressed. The students are stressed just thinking about the government officials talking about fortifications such as teachers carrying guns, gun/bomb-sniffing dogs, glazed or bullet-proof glass, and the list goes on.
Jason Straw, Westfield