THE PERFECT STORM OF SCHOOL SAFETY



Lisa Wright Author Blog
August 17, 2019





School safety and specifically school shootings: a very current, very hot topic that, upon closer inspection, can mean something different to different people. We all bring our individual perspectives to the proverbial table with any hot topic, and school safety is no exception. It is these individual perspectives, however, that may be the very thing that keeps us from truly restoring safety to schools. It is these individual perspectives that we may need to broaden, even if it makes us uncomfortable, in order to be able to address all areas that impact schools and the level of safety that we have relied upon and, in hindsight, taken for granted for generations.


Division (noun): the action of separating something into parts or the process of being separated. Disagreement between two or more groups, typically producing tension or hostility.


If one stopped reading here, one might use his/her own perspectives and beliefs to assume that I must be talking about politics. Or perhaps the gun debate. I am not.



First, school safety, which includes school shootings and all types of aggression and violence, cannot be divided from or separated from

“real world” safety, or

“life” safety, or

“society” safety, or,

simply,

“safety.”


They are one and the same, and we must, as parents, educators, and society recognize and reconcile that fact. Just as we explain to high school kids that their habits will go with them after graduation, we must purposefully understand that the “whole kid” goes with them after graduation—thoughts, beliefs, actions, motivations, intentions, and a high school diploma. As logical, thinking adult humans, we know this. We get it. We don’t dispute this. Yet we often think of “school safety” as a separate issue needing to be “fixed” or addressed in certain specific ways (which vary depending on one’s personal beliefs) but at the same time view “real world” safety as a separate issue needing to be addressed differently. The reality is that kids who have the motivation and interest in becoming a school shooter or carrying out an act of violence or aggression can, and do, grow up to be adults who can have the same motivation and interest in becoming a “real world” shooter or carrying out an act of violence or aggression.



Second, when we think of kids and school safety, and school shootings specifically, we may think of it as a


“school” problem or a


“kid” problem or a


“parent” problem or a


“society” problem or a


“gun” problem (and the list goes on),


depending on one’s own individual beliefs.


In reality, school safety and “real world” safety are the same complicated issue.


*It is a “perfect storm” that has been building and brewing for a very long time and is comprised of many elements.


*It is not a “one-stop fix” type of problem.


*Most importantly, it is not “someone else’s problem.”


It is everyone’s problem, whether or not one has kids, and whether one’s kids are in kindergarten or grown adults with their own families or anywhere in between. With the issue of safety—school or “real world”—we are all involved, and we must all take action to create change.



Third, when it comes to school safety, which includes school shootings and all types of aggression and violence, we as parents, educators and society must be cognizant of the human tendency to care very much, but to also believe in our core that it will never happen to us, which leads to the belief that we are immune to it and, as a result, do not need to work for change—that it is a problem that happens “somewhere else” and that impacts “someone else.” A typical pattern occurs each time an act of mass violence occurs:


a shooting or other act of mass violence occurs, most humans feel terrible for those affected, many humans speak out on behalf of the answer they believe in, and then… because it has to, life resumes, and the cycle continues. We must, as part of humanity, all step in to create individual change if we expect change to occur. Without real change, on many levels, the cycle will continue.



Fourth, as humans, we have the tendency to pin our hopes onto one firm answer—in our personal lives, in our relationships, in our families, with our personal problems. If only “this” happened, then it would solve “this.” Because we are human, when it comes to school safety and “real world” safety, which includes school shootings and all acts of violence and aggression, we use our personal belief systems to find the answer we believe in and focus only on that answer, excluding others answers or solutions as “wrong.” School and “real world” safety, and acts of mass violence, are all complicated problems that require us as parents, educators and society to address ALL possible causes. Pinning our hopes to one answer for safety—school or “real world”—as “the” answer is overly simplistic because of the complexity of the issue. Yet we, as humans, do it every day. Because we are human, to help us sleep at night, we support the answers we believe in, yet we ignore any faults in the answers we support because of our human need to find an answer that makes sense to us. We do this because we are human.



Fifth, as humans, we have a tendency to compartmentalize the problem of school safety and “real world” safety in today’s world as including only school shootings or mass shootings. As humans, we have a tendency to overlook “small” acts of aggression as being unrelated to the much larger, much more visible acts of school or “real world” shootings. We know, as adult humans, that an act of mass violence can happen anywhere at any time, yet we also know as adult humans that we must continue to live our lives and not let the “bad guys win," so we continue with our daily lives. Yet, in the midst of those daily lives, many humans treat other humans aggressively but do not consider those smaller acts of aggression to be a part of the “big picture” problem of safety in our world.


As humans, we contribute to the world every day—every word, every tone, every action and reaction, every post we make and share—and all of those acts can be positive and uplifting, or they can be aggressive or negative. We cannot only focus on changing the behavior of the humans who choose to act out their beliefs in the most aggressive, most violent ways of mass shootings or other types of violence. Aggression is aggression, and bigger change starts with self. We must remember that our kids are very often following our lead as adults, whether we realize it or not.



Ultimately, when it comes to “solving” the issue of school and “real world” safety—school shootings and other acts of aggression and violence—we must be open to looking at and addressing all possible causes and all potential solutions because in reality, addressing the issue will likely require a long-term, multifaceted approach. We cannot accept the current state of violence and aggression—all acts but especially school and “real world” mass shootings—as our new normal.



We can and do have the power to change this trajectory, but there is no single simple solution, no matter what single “answer” we wholeheartedly support. We are at a critical crossroads with the issue of mass violence, and we cannot allow the cycle to continue to repeat without stepping up, stepping in, and proactively working for change in all areas. If we choose to do nothing, nothing (obviously) will change, and the cycle will repeat from the copycat effect alone.



From aggression to apathy, as humans, we must consider and acknowledge the ripple effect of simple acts multiplied by all human behaviors and interactions every day. We cannot put those behaviors in separate boxes. How we each treat and engage with the people around us impacts the next person, and the next person, and the next person. We all lead by example every day, and our kids are watching and learning—from all of us. The only thing separating daily acts of aggression and the shocking, overt act of mass violence is the motivation and choice of the person to commit that act. The more we normalize aggression and violence in daily life, the more we unwittingly normalize the choice of mass aggression and violence for the individuals who choose to commit such an act. We must consider and address all that is contributing to the normalizing of aggressive and violent behavior and choices.



At its core, an act of violence is a human choice. The problem of mass shootings and other acts of mass violence will not be easily or quickly solved because the root of the problem is the human motivation to commit that act. To change this trajectory,


*we must mindfully consider all factors that are related to one’s human motivation to commit an act of violence—a mass shooting or other act.


*We must all work together to address all contributing factors and means of committing such an act, and


*we must work together on all potential solutions to prevent future violence from occurring.


Parents, educators, society, self—we are all a part of the solution.



Ultimately, we must overcome our own divisions—those outlined in this essay as well as those that are not—in order to create real change. The “perfect storm” of violence and aggression that we are in did not evolve overnight, and the solution will not evolve overnight. It will be difficult, and it will be complicated, but it must be done. There is much we can do, and there is much work to be done. We must all come together, roll up our sleeves, open our minds to all solutions, and do the work.



***


Lisa Wright is the author of The Age of Outrage: Strategies for Parents and Educators (Amazon).


Wright is a Texas public high school counselor whose career in education began almost three decades ago and includes twenty years as a middle school/junior high and high school teacher. Wright has observed the changes in students and the educational system brought about by the advent of technology and cell phones, by educational mandates designed to help kids, and by evolving parenting styles, all of which were well-intentioned but have at times resulted in unintended negative consequences.


Wright has witnessed the evolution of schools and the educational system as school shootings have happened again and again. Wright’s experience over three decades of a changing educational landscape and her research bring a unique perspective to her discussion of modern student and school issues. She addresses those issues head-on while including ways both parents and educators can help their kids/students.


Wright promotes open discussion so that educators and parents can unite to work together to make our schools and our world safer places and our kids more resilient future adults.