Professors Respond to School Shooting

default article imageIn the 1950’s and ‘60’s, school children across the country learned to defend themselves against a potential nuclear strike by climbing under their desks. Fortunately, that threat never materialized. Today’s school children are not so lucky; they are under attack.  

Like their predecessors, today’s children are also taught to hide under their desks in case of attack. Unlike the 50s and 60s, invasions from gun wielding intruders has become an ever-present reality. A Washington Post analysis has reported “over 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.”

In the hours and days that follow one of these tragedies, we are unified as a nation in our feelings of outrage, shock, disgust, fear, and intense sorrow for our children, their teachers, and the school staff. Unfortunately, our shared sense of loss has not led to the prevention of school shootings. 

This is in stark contrast to the measures taken to stop airline hijackings in the 1970s. After it became clear that terrorists were determined to use hijacking as a political platform, a concerted effort was made to solve the problem, and today airline hijackings are rare occurrences. Schools should be as safe as airports. We owe that to our children.

However, there is widespread disagreement concerning how to prevent school shootings, whether it be through increased school security, addressing mental health issues, or prohibiting easy access to guns. As Deans of Education and Social Work, we believe a comprehensive approach to the problem is needed. 

First, schools should continue to step up their efforts to limit access to schools, employ the latest technologies to immediately secure a school when threatened, and to develop the fastest response possible from local law enforcement officials.

Second, every school needs social work services built in to the fabric of the education process. Social workers and teachers must work together to assist children and families in need of additional support. We must provide the resources needed to teach our children, their families, and their communities how to deal with disappointment, anger, and intense emotion.

Third, we also believe the discourse must include an examination of the increasing evidence regarding the use of guns. According to The New York Times, the United States has the highest rate of firearm ownership in the world, with roughly one gun for every citizen.  We also have the highest rate of mass shootings. 

There is clear evidence that countries who have strengthened their gun laws dramatically reduced their gun mortality at all levels, including domestic violence, suicide, and other homicides. All assault rifles should be banned and a universal background check should be required for the private sale of weapons. In addition, we can work to strengthen and change policy in conjunction with gun mortality related to other issues, like domestic violence.

We must charge our legislative leaders to act immediately on proactive and positive changes to prevent mass shootings. A first step is the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on March 24th.  We support this event as a necessary demonstration of the national concern about gun violence in schools. 

It is critical that we continue to remain committed to acting on this issue. Legislators must understand that the public will not turn away from this issue until schools are safe again. 

It is also important to make decisions based on data rather than belief. The research already draws a strong association between the availability of guns and violence. We must be willing to affirm the effectiveness of future decisions by collecting and analyzing data.  More importantly, we must be willing to change our minds based on evidence.

It is within the national character to solve this difficult problem. To do so will require drawing upon the best parts of ourselves, including American ingenuity to employ latest and best technology, a community spirit that embraces neighbors less fortunate than ourselves, and a commitment to hard headed decision-making based on evidence rather than belief. Most of all, it will require our willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of our children.