School Violence – Managing The Epidemic

By Terence T. Gorski, Author ,
April, 2013

imagesI was a member of my High School Debate team. I learned that false arguments need to be unmasked or they are assumed to be true. One powerful false argument that is frequently used, especially by public media, is the PLEA TO EMOTION. This is an argument presented in a way that creates strong emotions. The hidden message is that if thinking about this makes you feel bad, it must be bad. If it makes you feel good, it must be good. No thinking required. The message is clear:  intense feelings prove that the argument must right. Unfortunately, just because the argument of a speaker raises strong feelings, it does not mean the argument is correct. In cognitive therapy this is a thinking error called emotional reasoning. People try to think with their gut instead of their minds.

I have strong feelings about violence against children, including the violence of school shootings. These feelings range from anger at the shooter to deep grief for the families and survivors. I also stand in awe at the emergency first responders who entered the school, witnessing the unspeakable horror perpetrated on  the children and teachers who were brutally mutilated by bullets. This includes the police, the paramedics, and the forensic investigators. Many of these responders are traumatized. They did their jobs well and do not deserve the trauma they are certainly suffering.

Over the years I have learned an important lesson: It does not always feel right to do right. Sometimes it hurts to do the right thing. Like it or not, violence has been a part of nature and of humanity since before the beginning of recorded history. It is unlikely that violence will be stamped out in our lifetime. Strong feelings make us reach for quick and easy solutions – ban guns, screen everybody, and lock up anyone who might one day become violent. Then lock down schools and arm school teachers while declaring all schools No-Gun Zones. The list of simple, often contradictory, and most-likely ineffective solutions is long and creative.

Violence will not end until every human being choses to resolve conflicts peacefully
by learning to mange their own mind and emotions. 

Unfortunately there is no fast and easy solution. Violence will not end until every human being choses to resolve conflicts peacefully and learn to mange their own mind and emotions. A great dream, but I will not see  it in my lifetime. No matter what we as a nation do about our epidemic of violence, there will be unintended consequences. Whatever we do, we will need to constantly review and revise our national strategies based on what works and what does not work.

In this paper I am going to present a ten point plan for managing the epidemic of violence. I elected strategies that I believe will make a difference and that can be implemented by involved community members, parents, and professionals. Anyone deeply concerned with developing more effective policies for managing the societal problems related to violence can find something in the list that they can get behind.

I expect that some people will criticize some of the recommendations that I have made here. That’s good. If two people agreed about everything, at least on of them is unnecessary. This is a tough issue with no easy solutions. I encourage people of good will to debate and respectfully disagree about strategies for violence prevention. Let’s be cautious  without falling into the trap of emotional reasoning.

Let’s avoid personal attacks on those who disagree with us and focus on the strategies rather than the personalities. I believe we all want to find an end to the senseless violence that periodically lifts its head in our communities. To accomplish this we must talk, debate disagree, and be willing to change our opinion as we learn new and more compelling information and alternatives. I welcome criticism and constructive alternatives to my ideas. In my opinion, the broad range of factors that need to be addressed are these:

(1) We must have a plan to change our culture of violence which is based on the belief that violence is good, violence is a solution, and violence is an acceptable form of entertainment. This includes changing the sports, entertainment, and video game industries.

(2) We must have programs for improve parenting skills that includes how to monitor and observe children, recognize warning signs of addiction and mental health problems, and how to get help. Currently more training is required to get a driver’s license than to get married or have a child. Note: The rate of child abuse, neglect and child homicide is high. School shootings are so infrequent that they don’t even statistically make the list of major causes of child murders by the FBI.

(3) Reduce the illicit drug trade. Drug dealing is the primary source of income for street gangs. The gangs ran and enforce the multi-billion dollar underground economy by an antisocial drug culture of violence. The drug trade is the primary factor contributing to the proliferation of handguns and other automatic weapons used in violent crimes.

(4) Reduce family and relationship violence. According to the Department of Justice, of all children under age 5 who were murdered from 1976-2005:

◦  31% were killed by fathers
◦  29% were killed by mothers
◦  23% were killed by male acquaintances
◦  7% were killed by other relatives
◦ 3% were killed by strangers

(5) Provide readily available addiction and mental health services for prevention, early intervention, treatment, and relapse prevention. Work hard to reduce the stigma so parents and young people will reach out early for these services.

(6) Stop the media from making mass murderers, whether school/workplace killers or serial killers, instant celebrities by putting their pictures and names on all media. Work instead upon creating victim empathy be letting people know the true human losses.

(7) Take reasonable steps to enforce safety in our schools and places of work by proper policies of preparation and training for BOTH school/workplace leadership and students/employees. This can start by showing all children, parents, and students/employees the Department of Homeland Security five minute video entitled: Surviving an Active Shooting Incident (http://youtube/5VcSwejU2D0) which shows common sense responses (RUN, HIDE, FIGHT) to the unlikely event of a school or workplace shooting.

(8) Support police efforts and other resources in consulting with schools and large workplaces in how to prevent and respond to active shooting events and require compliance the same way that we do with fire code enforcement. Thirty percent of US schools are already protected by armed police officers. Fire drills occur in every school, even though child death in a school fire is exceedingly rare. Practical training in how to respond to an active shooting event and regular drills should be conducted following the same policy procedures as fire drills.

(9) Consistently enforce existing gun laws and pass rational new gun control legislation.

(10) Encourage all people to give up the myth of safety. The world is a dangerous place. People are injured and killed every day.

As a society, we can take reasonable actions to improve safety – no one can guarantee anyone’s safety. We can take steps to reduce violence but nothing can prevent it totally. BE PREPARED.



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