At 55 seconds into this video called Letter to God, Charles raps:
“Dear God…….Yesterday a school got shot up, God fell asleep and never got up. It was out there in Connecticut–you didn’t have to see their little faces on the internet. I doubt you even remember it. And if you do, I’m sorry for the lack of gratitude, But ignoring my prayers is the wrong attitude…”
After his friend Max sent me this video of Charles after his death by suicide, I remember understanding how adversely effected he was by the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. At the time I asked him about it, he dismissed it as not even having heard about it. He was in boarding school in Utah at the time. He goes on to rap, “Why oh why does my child have to die?” Hits me in the heart every time.
And while our reaction to what happened in Florida is nowhere near what they are experiencing in Broward County, we have to understand that these tragedies have far-reaching consequences beyond that of the innocent lives that were taken too soon. The trauma of the students who had to navigate past dead bodies to leave the school, surviving the horror, the lasting impressions that first responders were exposed to as they approached the scene. Even thousands of miles away, there are kids fantasizing about becoming the next school shooter, as well as those traumatized with fear and anxiety over going to school.
It’s become way too real. People everywhere are anxious and alarmed. I have to tell you that all of us who’ve lost a child are struggling right now. We know what these parents are facing in terms of grief, even if our circumstances are different.
So I have some thoughts on what we could be doing to prevent these tragedies, looking at root cause and not just doing “drills” to prepare students. Important but not helping with prevention. We don’t like prevention in America. Never any money in it. However, as a long-term strategy, prevention has one of the highest returns on investment, saving states millions of dollars–not to mention the most important savings, the lives of innocent people.
- We have to recognize Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and how they effect behavior. We need to integrate resilience-building strategies early. They do exist and have shown great results. We should be embracing life skills training for kids all through the school years. See this video with Dr. Allison Jackson
- Don’t rely on punishment as a way to deal with behavior. Don’t ask, “What is the matter with that child?” but rather, “What happened to that child?” We are quick to suspend and expel. I know that being suspended was traumatic to Charles who was sent home due to a panic attack. He was not even aggressive but I do remember after this incident at school, Charles mental health really suffered and he spiraled out of stability. Zero tolerance as it relates to children’s behavior is simply lazy and does not address the root of the problem, one of our favorite pasttimes
- We need to teach our children to watch out for peers that are saying things that are alarming, indicates self harm or bullying
- We need to integrate events that inspire connection in the classroom and quality face time. That includes allowing for assignments that share diverse voices. Making a video or podcast about something that student experienced. Using mindfulness games and student activators to encourage belonging and allowing students to get to know one another.
- Recognize and screen early for mental illness and trauma
- Ban semi automatic weapons. I don’t want to take away everyone’s firearms. We simply need some common sense when it comes to guns that are meant for mass killing and make it more difficult for younger ages to acquire weapons. It won’t solve everything but it will make accessing these weapons more difficult. I simply don’t see the wisdom in keeping them legal for the sake of avid collectors when they are being used to kill kids and teachers in our schools. Alternatively, take a look at David French’s article linked below, A gun control measure that conservatives should consider. French’s approach could allow family and friends to apply a “Gun ownership restraining law” when someone is struggling in any way and possibly prevent a lot of tragedy. Incidentally, safekeeping of firearms in the home to prevent them getting into the hands of others would also go a long way.
- Social media platforms need to offer a specific way to report potential aberrant behavior using the kind of artificial intelligence they are now utilizing for suicide prevention. Alarming content doesn’t necessarily allow police or FBI to do much of anything but once identified, we can monitor the activity. I am going to bet there is a way to identify patterns of alarm using past social media accounts that might indicate a potential attack is more likely
I’m sure I missed something. That’s what the comment section is for!