SCHOOL SHOOTINGS - How can we Protect our Children?

Monday, December 17, 2012

(Above image of the flags that encompass the Washington Monument in DC lowered to half-mast in memory of the lives lost in the Sandy Hook Massacre Friday in Newton, CT)

As we mourn the loss of 20 children and the 6 brave teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, parents across the country try to process this event and what it means to them and their family.  How can we keep our children safe?  What can we do to help prevent these tragedies? 

Since the tragedy, I’ve received many questions from concerned individuals.   Should we arm teachers with firearms, large pepper spray foggers or tasers?  Should schools have armed security officers and metal detectors?  Should there be stricter gun laws?  While some of these things may reduce the number of fatalities if a school shooting does occur, they may not, in and of themselves, prevent the attack from transpiring.  If an armed attacker enters a school the likelihood of fatalities ensuing is tremendous, even if armed security officers are present.

I am not suggesting that we should not implement some of the ideas above, but I am suggesting that we should ask ourselves; what steps can we take as parents and role models to help prevent school shootings? The following are my 5 immediate and proactive recommendations to help keep our children safe:

  1. Talk to the children in your life, and encourage them to tell you and their teachers if their classmates are bullying, mention depression or seem to be depressed or sad, have access to a gun, talk about bringing a gun to school or are displaying odd behaviors.
  2. Encourage your children to tell you if they are upset and are feeling sad.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if your child shows potential signs of a mental health disorder.
  3. Explain to your children the importance of taking emergency preparation drills seriously, and that they should listen to their teachers and do exactly what they say during these drills and during real emergencies.
  4. Find out what is being done at your school.  Ask your principal - how prepared are they?  Proper response plans and trained staff can limit the number of victims by getting children and teachers to safety in an efficient manner.
  5. If a solid safety plan and procedures are not in place, attend and participate in PTA meetings and create alliances with other parents to help ensure your schools takes proactive measures to help safeguard their students.

Watch the clip below as I discuss these important tips with FOX’s Good Day Chicago Anchors; Anna Davlantes and Corey McPherrin:

Although they say “hindsight is 20/20”, what if a few of your simple yet proactive and preventative actions could save a life?  A few months ago, I was at North Avenue Beach in Chicago with friends.  We took notice of a young man wearing jeans, black boots and no shirt and was carrying a backpack.  He would approach a group of people and sit down close to them for a minute and then would walk around in circles aimlessly for several minutes following.  His dress and behavior seemed very odd.  His facial expressions displayed a disturbed soul.  Rather than just pointing him out to my friends, I decided I needed to act.  I did not know what was inside his bag, but I did know he was not displaying normal behavior.  I told a lifeguard and eventually found a police officer to tell.  I do not know if he was a threat or not, but I do know no one was injured that day.

One of the golden rules of personal safety is when something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  Take action!  We have to look out for one another and we have to take steps now to protect our children.  Sit down with them and have a serious talk immediately.  Show them love and support.  Be proactive.