Since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida and the ensuing conversations around gun control in the United States, I’ve found myself trying to hold back on not making comments. Part of my reasoning is because I’m Canadian and in some ways probably don’t have the right to judge another country’s policies. But I’m also an educator and realistically, kids are kids no matter where they attend school and safety is safety! Plus I’m a superintendent who would automatically be part of a decision (if ever made) to arm teachers in our own division.
Let’s begin with the idiocy of the gun control argument. The head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre made this statement following the Sandy Hook tragedy, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” He is pretty staunch in his beliefs that Americans should be able to bear arms and would be very willing for his organization to make schools safer. Bad guy with guns, good guy with guns, bear arms and make schools safer… I think I’ve heard more coherent statements on the kindergarten playground.
I’m not an anti-gun socialist. I have an in-law who is an avid hunter and I admire the safety precautions he takes around the storage and use of his guns. What I have a difficult time with is the ability to purchase assault weaponry (or use it for an auction/raffle prize) or to be able to walk around with a concealed handgun! This can’t be good for the fabric of any nation and given the history of ongoing school shootings and massive killings in the US, maybe it is time to re-think some policies.
I would be naive to believe that any compromised solution exists through the political arenas. The extremes on both the right and the left are far too ignorant to seek a compromise somewhere in the middle. Their rights blind their responsibilities! The debate around gun control is far too political and in reality touches on only the symptoms of the problem and not the root cause.
Schools and communities do have an effective tact to improve safety but it will take all politicians and the public at large to support. Every single day we have students coming into schools who are living with or in traumatic situations and experiencing some of the highest levels of anxiety and pressure in history. The stress level of our students continues to grow exponentially.
Mental health support is our greatest equalizer to this problem. Systems are currently taxed in providing support for students with the hiring of additional school or family school counselors and mental health therapists. The wait times to see, or even the available resources of pediatricians, child psychologists and psychiatrists continues to grow. Wouldn’t that be a bonus if the access to these professionals was unencumbered by where you lived or what you made? Early intervention is also a key and therefore supporting the mental health needs of children at a young age is critical. Targeting early learners is one of the best investments for building stronger communities. In order to address the growing mental health needs of our students, funding (targeted) has to be made available. It needs to be adequate, ongoing and not tied to politics. This funding is simply the right thing to do regardless of political ideology. Unfortunately, this is not going to be a quick fix so don’t expect a turnaround immediately. This solution must be thought of as generational.
It seems that politicians, the odd media star, and the public cries foul over bullying in schools all too often. Most point their fingers without ever looking at their own contributions to the issue. When was the last time any of these officials ever spent time in the shoes of teachers and administrators dealing the complexities of our classrooms and schools today? It is easy to give advice from afar, how about giving support instead!
So politicians and public in general, instead of belittling public education and complaining about teachers, administrators, schools and systems, how about stepping up to the plate with real-time funding to support children and families. The answer in my system for creating safer environments is not arming our teachers but continuing to support the ever-growing mental health needs of our students and families…period!