Wars. Guns. Fights.
You would think I was talking about Iraq or Syria but I’m not. These are all subjects I was reading about today concerning schools! With the recent Newtown shooting and this article I read by Carl Willis on incidents at a Dekalb County School I have come to the conclusion that schools are the new warzones in America.
The first article that caught my attention was this one of a young 11-year-old honor student who was beaten up by a classmate and is now in an induced coma because of head trauma and concussion. The “bully” got a 2 day suspension. 2 days? No charges? I am astounded by the fact that a kid can be beaten up and the assailant only gets a two day suspension with no pending charges at this point. It’s not that I am looking for some kind of capital punishment here but I wonder how it’s possible to beat up another kid and only have 2 days away from school? At least the little 5-year-old girl who brought the Hello Kitty Bubble Gun to school was labeled a “terrorist” and initially given a 5 day suspension, which was reduced to 2 days.(I’m being sarcastic).
A few days ago I saw an article about a 9th-grader who possibly committed suicide because he had been bullied (Details still forthcoming). With this information I researched to see how many school shootings there have been in 2013. It’s a jaw-dropping 8! Of course all of these are not necessarily related to bullying. Instead some are gang-related, brought on through senseless violence or the outcome of aggressive behavior while a teen had possession of a weapon. In Dekalb County, GA, 6 students were arrested in a 10-day span a few months ago! The issue is clear, schools are not “safe places” any longer. Whether it’s bullying in the form of fights to assaults with deadly weapons, schools are warzones for our kids.
So what can we do as parents, youth workers, and leaders in our communities do to help curb this violence and re-create safety in our schools?
1) Deal with the issues head-on.
We can’t pretend like these things are not happening. From bullying on school buses to playgrounds and safety responses to proper protocol in the event of a school shooting, all of us need to be aware of procedures and steps in deling with these major school issues. Talking to our kids about safety, helping them understand how to deal with bullying proactively, and engaging in open, real, honest dialogues with schools is what must happen if we are to curtail this new war at school. It’s going to take more than the school administrators, resource officers or POTUS to put an end to this war! We tend to discriminate about age on these kind of things but with the Newtown shooting in mind, we cannot postpone dealing with hardcore, serious issues once our kids are school age. We must have sessions and seminars and invite school and community leaders to our churches to educate parents. We need to build healthy relationships and partnerships with schools. We must deal with these things with all gravity and seriousness. Get involved!
2) Pay attention to your child’s feelings.
As a parent/leader/adult, we have the responsibility to be watchful over things that may be “signs” of bullying, gang behavior, violence etc. Paying attention to your child is what may save their lives in the end. Teaching and talking to them about such hot topics as gun control, violent video games, music they are listening to, movies they watch, etc. can give us a quick and true glimpse into their real worldview and help us see any “danger” or “red flags.” When we discuss these topics with our kids, they give us “feelings” for their answers. Those “feelings” are what help us understand where they are in their maturity and rational. For children, teens and many adults, feelings are what leads to action, not rational, logical thinking. Knowing what your kid is feeling and thus thinking can be the difference between life and death. Get involved!
3) Be involved in your kid’s “social life”.
There is no reason we as adults shouldn’t be involved in the social media and technological worlds of our kids. What your kid may call “stalking” is actually good parenting. Leaving them on their own in a jungle like the internet is a surefire way to allow negative and dangerous influences affect them. As an adults we should monitor the online personas and lives of our kids. Being involved in this way will help prevent things like cyberbullying and help us be aware of what is truly feeding their minds and nurturing their souls. Furthermore, limiting the amont of time given to violent games, online places to visit via XBOX LIVE etc., and technology in general, also pulls them back into the “real” world where face -to-face conversations can take place and we can help equip them for “real” life. Share your life with your kids, don’t let technology replace you…or anyone else for that matter. Get involved!
4) Act immediately.
If you have a concern or think there may be an issue with bullying, safety or crime don’t hesitate to act. Any threat is a serious threat whether it’s bullying to terrorism. Listening for what’s not being said is as important as any “red flag” we may see. If you see or sense that something is wrong, investigate and don’t stop until the issue is truly resolved. I’m convinced that it’s more dangerous than ever to be a student attending a school but I’m not convinced that it’s too late. We must act now! We must pray now! Get involved now!