There is no doubt that teen violence is increasing. In the wake of the Newtown school shooting incident many schools are talking about what security measures they can put in place for future acts of violence. While these are good discussions to have, I feel a different kind of discussion needs to be taking place.
Instead of just planning for the events, we need to work on preventing them. I don’t mean catching the bad guy the day before he carries out his plan. I also don’t mean focusing on the problems students are facing. Life is full of challenges and problems and it always will be. Certainly some of these issues need intervention, but sometimes learning how to face a problem is more effective than trying to make the problem go away.
Real prevention involves asking questions about why some teenagers are so angry and why some make threats. I would argue that violence is the result of teenagers who do not have the skills to deal with whatever problem it is they are facing. Without a tool belt to tackle the problem with, the problem seems daunting to the student. Combine that with not having the skills or selflessness to ask for help or even articulate what help would look like and you’ve got an angry, burnt out student who doesn’t know any other way to cope other than to make threats.
Safety at school is a legitimate concern, schools have a responsibility to do all they can to protect their students and give them a safe environment for leaning. However, what we have done by neglecting skill building, is given them the power to shut down our schools and prevent learning for the rest of the students. Instead of giving them the power to shut down our schools, we need to empower them to shut down their problems appropriately.
We need more adults who are willing to come alongside teenagers and take the time to be not just math teachers and history teachers, but teachers of skills, social manners, and confidence. These are the things we need to pass down in order for the next generation to succeed.
How many school shootings would be prevented if we were to give students more skills and appropriate power? If we were to take their concerns seriously when they present them to us, set higher expectations for them socially and morally and appropriately empower them to make a difference and influence the very structure of their learning environment?