When education becomes violent, how can we keep our kids safe?
Communities around the country are reeling right now because of unnecessary violence unleashed on their local schools. Most recently, the community of Chardon, Ohio mourns the loss of several high school students after a 17-year-old opened fire while kids ate breakfast in the cafeteria.
Prior to this tragedy, a 9-year-old in Washington brought a loaded gun to school on Feb. 22 because he wanted to run away from home. The gun accidentally discharged in the boy's backpack and critically wounded an 8-year-old girl. On Feb. 20, two teenagers, apparently heated over a disagreement with another group of kids, brought guns on school property in Tennessee and shot a 14-year-old twice in the leg. In New Hampshire, a 14-year-old in New Hampshire shot himself in the face at school because he was upset over a relationship. He survived, but not before traumatizing classmates.
Firearms aren't always involved in school violence. Just last week, an 11-year-old California girl died after an alley fight with a classmate. The two apparently planned the fight to hash out a disagreement over a boy.
The outbreak of violence on school campuses has made many parents hypersensitive to the issue. Now, in addition to talking to our kids about studying, completing homework, making friends and dealing with bullies, we need have serious discussions about how to stay safe.
"The violence in schools seems to be mirroring the violence in society," says Julie, a mom of two from Colorado. "I reached a point where I just didn't feel right about having to talk to my kids about how to recognize potentially deadly threats and how to stay safe if something horrible should happen in school. This is just one of the many reasons we decided to homeschool. It's just out of hand."
While homeschooling is one way to avoid campus violence, that's not an option for many. For those of us who send our kids off to school each day, the reality is that open communication regarding possible threats is a necessity. "When you talk to your children, be honest!" says Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services. "Violence and related trauma issues are serious, but more damage can be done by minimizing or exaggerating points than by simply providing children with facts and telling the truth."
Kids need to be aware of their surroundings and feel comfortable talking to you, the parent, about possibly dangerous situations. "Do not assume that your child knows even the 'basic' facts about safety and other risks," says Trump. "Kids absorb a lot of information and, unfortunately, much of it is inaccurate or from questionable sources. Let your child get all of the information -- the correct information -- from you as the parent."
If you open the lines of communication before a problem arises, your child will be more likely to come to you with their concerns before they become reality.
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