Gun Violence and Schools: An Inside-Out Approach

Joanna Marzano, CEI Intern

Editor’s Note: Saturday March 25 marks a time of protest when thousands of youth and others are expected to protest gun violence in Marches in Washington DC and around the world. Our hearts and spirits are with these youth.  May they find success where we have failed.

Diverse hands linked in unity

On February 14th, 2018, 17 Marjory Stoneman High School students were murdered by a 19-year-old  with an AR-15 assault rifle. According to EveryTown USA, this marks the 17th gunfire incident in a school since the beginning of 2018, and is the deadliest incident since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Once again, our nation is simultaneously devastated and divided, while we mourn for the lives taken too soon while asking ourselves and others what we can do to stop this from happening again.

Heated debates about gun control unavoidably arise in the wake of every gun-related incident. However, while arguments over what needs to be done continue to go around in circles, many of us are overlooking a deeper issue within our society. While we commonly think of schools as places of learning, we tend to disregard the social aspects that are woven into student’s everyday lives. Although positive social interactions are common amongs students, 49% of students between grades 4-12 report being bullied within a single month (stopbullying.gov).

A positive school climate is vital for students to maintain high levels of social and emotional health, which requires strong and healthy relationships between not only students but students and teachers as well (Kamenetz, 2018). Across the globe, the students who resort to violence within their schools are also the ones who experience high levels of bullying from their peers. With all the talk about arming teachers and making our schools a tougher target to hit, not much is being said about what is happening within our school and how we may succeed in softening the internal climate and making it a place where violence is less likely to arise.

It is time we teach students how to be kind and compassionate towards one another. Instead of focusing on the negative effects of bullying, we can show students how to change their behavior into one that is altruistic, which has shown to positively affect the individual practicing it as well as the people around them. A few examples of what simple acts of kindness can produce are:

  • Less bullying
  • A sense of belonging and high self-esteem
  • Improvements in mental health and stress levels
  • Increased levels of gratitude
  • Reduced levels of depression (Currie, 2015)

Combining increased levels of kindness and compassion from students, along with teachers and administrators recognizing students who may be ‘at risk’ for mental health issues or violent tendencies, is a great two-pronged approach to creating a school climate rich in acceptance and support

  • This requires the support from school counselors or even outside mental health providers.
  • If everyone came together within a school to make it a positive environment to be and to learn, students may not be as likely to act out in violent ways.

It is time to put this matter into our own hands. Arming teachers with guns is unnecessary, but providing them with the tools to foster a positive environment for every student absolutely is.

References

Currie, L. (2015, August 10th). Why teaching kindness in schools is essential to reduce bullying.

Kameneta, A. (2018, March 7th). Here’s how to prevent the next school shooting, experts say.

‘306 school shootings in America since 2013’ (n.d.). EveryTown USA.

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