Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 8:22:35 PM
A pall fell over our country just weeks before Christmas when twenty innocent victims, some no older than ten, lost their lives in yet another senseless shooting. Over the last few years, I’ve asked myself time and again, when did this violence begin…and more importantly, why? For me, growing up took place in a simpler, gentler time. School and safety were synonymous. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. I always loved school!
Over the years, I witnessed our schools become targets of violence. Six years ago, I moved from middle to elementary school. Imagine my surprise when I found myself hiding under a table during a “lock-down”, just a few weeks into the new school year. Although, statistically there is little chance of an attack, too many recent episodes like the killings at Newtown have robbed teachers and students of the sense of security and safety they once associated with school. Now the question is, what are we going to do about it.
The recent recession and resultant economy have translated to huge cuts in school district budgets throughout the country. Often, one of the first groups of employees to lose their jobs are school counselors and psychologists. At first glance, it appears an easy fix. People in positions of authority rationalize and act on the belief that these people are expendable. Let’s look again. Who is the first line of defense against youngsters with mental health issues? Oftentimes, these individuals come from families that have neither the insight nor the resources to realize that counseling of some kind is essential. In the classroom environment, anti-social issues often surface. With an adequate support team in place, teachers can make a referral and that individual student can begin to receive counseling services. Obviously, there is a protocol in place that involves talking with not only the students, but parents and other adults who have regular interactions with the troubled student. Typically, at least one meeting occurs and parents, along with other school personnel, brainstorm ideas and develop an action plan to support the struggling student.
Consider how valuable this collaborative approach can be. All of a sudden a youngster who is struggling benefits from a group of adults committed to offering support. Additionally, the family of this student now has access to professionals that can offer practical suggestions, guidance, and support. The mental health professionals that work in our schools, along with teachers, school nurses, and administrators are the nation’s first line of defense against subsequent attacks. This is NOT where we want to reduce school budgets. Let’s get our heads out of the sand and our priorities in place before we eliminate the very people who are trained to stop violence before it starts.
Submitted by Readarose