In the wake of a new school shooting, many parents are struggling to find ways to prevent their children from being victims. Although history bares shootings in school settings are rarer than airplane crashes, arguably their effects are more devastating. There are effective ways of preparing children to avoid their becoming victims.
Playing an active role in a child’s life is no longer sufficient to protect him. Parents must take and teach a proactive approach to life.
Students interviewed in the American school shootings have all given the same account: They were unaware of what was going on around them.
Whether distracted by an iPod, BlackBerry or cell phone, students are not taking notice of their surroundings. Students stopped on the sidewalk are unable to answer the question, What did the last person you passed look like? Witnesses of school shootings are unable to answer: Where was the shooter? Did the shooter already have the gun?
Students must be acutely aware of their surroundings at all times. They need to be able to identify places where someone can lie in wait or conceal weapons.
Know Your Neighbor
Students should also be observant of the people they encounter on a regular basis. Although not acquainted, students should be able to pick out those who occupy their space within a short period of time. Knowing who is supposed to populate their frequent paths is how they are able to pick out strangers who may represent danger.
ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. Each student should have an ICE number programmed into a cell phone. The entry should be for someone who can be reached during class time and can give permission for medical treatment. The ICE number should be in addition to a regular entry and give an unknown user enough information to know for whom to ask. The contact list entry should look like one of these:
ICE Mom Work Jane Doe
ICE Gramps Max Doe
ICE Uncle Mickey Doe
A counselor or adviser should be in each student’s emergency contact list, both on a cell phone and in the dormitory or student housing. Children need to be able to report when they have identified someone with whom they are uncomfortable. As members of the school community, they must take the responsibility of protecting themselves, which in turn protects others in the process.
Parents need to discuss gun responsibility and weapon possession with their children. If a student knows of any person who is in possession of a firearm or weapon on campus, he should know whom to call or report. Discussion about avoidance of those people who persist in such possession should also occur. Parental intervention must take place in notifying police in this instance.
Open discussion between parents and children about the causation of school shootings is of major importance. Do not wait until the child is a teen to have this kind of dialog. Explore the following:
- mental conditions
- peer pressure
- stress factors
- other factors leading to these tragedies
It is forever.
Children must understand the finality of death. Many children believe death is transient because their games entail additional lives and the ability to regenerate life. In reality, death is final. This realization is a deterrent to behaviors which lead to death.
If gunfire erupts in a school, the very first thing a student should do is drop to the ground and pretend to be dead. Do not move or look around until well after the shooting has stopped or a school employee gives the instruction to get up and evacuate.
Running from where you perceive the sound of gunfire only makes you a moving target. Playing dead makes you look like a hit target and no longer of interest.
It takes a village.
Engage the acquaintances and friends of your children in active dialog which can reveal some of the indicators which are present prior to violent acts. When discovering inappropriate behavior in a child’s peer group, contact the parents of the child in question and the school. Vigilance on the part of one parent must be companion to the awareness of the other parents.
This is not a subject which needs to or should wait until there is an abominable tragedy. Talk to your children regularly about all manner of things. Be certain you are listening to the things they say. You never know when idle chit-chat will lead to a telling admission.
If your child knows what to notice, he may well tell you while you are not paying attention. Be fair by being vigilant with him, and notice what he has noticed.
Protecting their children is parents’ first responsibility. Arm children with the knowledge and observation skills they need to survive. It may be the difference between surviving a school shooting or becoming a victim.
What other wisdom can you pass to your children about preventing school shootings? How many parents know who is on the sidewalk with their child? How important is parent networking?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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