There was an article in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune using the availability of bullet-proof backpacks for kids going back to school to make some good points about keeping kids safe at school.
The crux of the matter is laid out well in about the middle of the article:
So, as the new year gets under way, how do we keep our kids safe? By building caring school communities, where everyone is made to feel valued and people are vigilant about disturbing behavior.
Curriculum must push in-school community building, encouragement of diversity, and the teaching of (over and over again) the social skills necessary to value “the other” and to know what to watch for and how to report what you see so that intervention can take place earlier for individuals caught in escalating problems (violence, suicide, etc.).
We also must ensure that those kids in need of counseling and psychiatric help have access to that help. While it may make sense to some to cut the availability of these services as school budgets get tight, it is a terrible idea. There is no doubt that the need for these services in schools is growing. That is reflected in deaths by suicide, violence in our schools and outside the schools as a carry-over from school, as well as the not as obvious growing incidence of mental health issues amongst these individuals.
These are community problems that require community solutions, not “band aids” (even those as big and heavy as armored backpacks).