Several weeks ago, a crazed and angry young man took a gun into a Florida school and shot many unsuspecting young people who were going about their school day as they did every other day of the week. And suddenly, many of them were dead. The outrage over the mass shooting created such a maelstrom among the media, politicians, parents, and students across the nation. Students came out in large numbers to protest the availability of high powered guns. Politicians once again made themselves available for face time on national news shows so that they could once again rail against the NRA and the Second Amendment.
According to David Ropeik in The Washington Post, school shootings are fewer than what the public believes to be true. He says:
” The Education Department reports that roughly 50 million children attend public schools for roughly 180 days per year. Since Columbine, approximately 200 public school students have been shot to death while school was in session, including the recent slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (and a shooting in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday that police called accidental that left one student dead). That means the statistical likelihood of any given public school student being killed by a gun, in school, on any given day since 1999 was roughly 1 in 614,000,000. And since the 1990s, shootings at schools have been getting less common” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/).
Today, students are walking out of class to demand tougher gun laws. I can understand their fear. They go to school expecting to be safe from physical harm, never suspecting that they will be attacked by a disenfranchised individual who has massacre on the brain. No student should ever be afraid to attend school, but the fact is that students are often fearful to attend school, not because of a random shooter but because they fear the ruthlessness of classmates, the expectations of some teachers, the fear of failure, and many other reasons. In New Jersey, schools have police officers on the campus and in the hallways because of student violence and because students attack teachers.
The American Psychological Association did a study in 2014 that showed stunning results of attacks on teachers perpetrated by students. The report asserts that in 48 states, nearly 3,000 teachers in grades K-12 reported some form of harrassment or physical violence on themselves. Eighty percent of the participants said that they were victimized at least once, and of that 80 percent, 94 percent were victimized by students. In additon, many participants in the survey experienced harrassment and property damage (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pits.21777/abstract).
While it is true that shootings are stunning and frightening, school violence has been a problem for many years. I am not trying to minimize the danger nor the appalling nature of mass shootings as we have seen in the last two decades, but I do not believe that the problem is guns. The problem lies elsewhere. When students do not respect authority, be it their parents, their peers, or the police, how can we expect them to respect their educators. Teachers do not teach for the monetary benefits they gain from their employment. They invest themselves in the lives of students, preparing them for the journey of life ahead in the adult world, and what do they get for it? I have seen video of students contronting a teacher, nose to nose, swearing in the teacher’s face. I have seen students throwing chairs, getting into fights with other students in the classroom. This kind of behavior is far more frequent than school shootings. But no one is walking out of school to make a statement about student violence against other students or teachers. Teachers go back to school after being pummeled by students and sometimes parents of the students. No one is outside the school or matching on Washington to protest student violence.
What is the real problem? Not guns. The problem lies at the door of parents who have neglected their responsibility to parent, to teach manners, to teach respect, to teach morals. The families who are broken by divorce and hostility, children having babies, the moral degeneracy promoted by the video culture and the music industry, our congressmen and congresswomen who perpetuate divisiveness are all responsible for the problems we see in school violence. But is anyone walking out to protest poor parenting or moral decay?
Getting rid of AR-15s or bump stocks is not going to solve the problem of school violence. Good parenting may. Common sense may. Getting back to the basics of the Golden Rule may: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Why don’t we put a little old fashioned principles to work for a change!