How do we keep them safe?

Hey Advocactes,

Happy Memorial Day to the readers in the United States. These days, Memorial Day signals the start of the summer. It's often when neighborhood swimming pools open and families get together for a barbecue. We shouldn't forget that Memorial Day is the day we honor the members of the armed forces who have died in service to the country. 

Speaking of those who have died, earlier this week, an 18-year-old entered a school in Texas and shot and killed 19 children and two teachers. The students were in fourth grade. The gunman wounded several others. This is the 27th school shooting in the United States in 2022. When I heard that, I was speechless. I had no words. The first thought in my mind was about my own two kids. My daughter celebrated her 12th birthday this week, and my son is 9. What if this had been at my kid's school?

As more information is released regarding the shooting in Texas, questions are raised about the role of law enforcement. We don't yet have the answers, but the questions are disturbing. There are reports that the gunman was able to enter the school and remained inside for an hour before police entered the building. If true, not only did this give the gunman a chance to kill so many children, but there was no opportunity for any emergency treatment. The two teachers who died were protecting their students. 

When does it stop? Last weekend, we had 65 shootings and 17 deaths. Ten were killed. In a Buffalo, NY grocery store African Americans were shopping. 

But let's look at this for a second. In several of the recent shootings, the shooters were 18 years old. We know that a person's brain is not fully developed at 18. An 18-year-old can't legally drink. How are these two 18-year-olds able to buy guns and kill almost 30 people last weekend and this week

The average age of school shooters is 16. A 16-year-old can drive. They haven't graduated from high school, they can't buy alcohol or enter into a contract, yet they have shot and killed their classmates.

I don't see how we can keep losing our children and our teachers, our community members who go to a supermarket or a gym. Our friends and neighbors who go to a flea market or a park. How do we keep them safe? 

Many of us know someone, a person, or a family who has been touched by gun violence. I'm raising the questions because I can't imagine the impact on a family, a classroom, a school, and a community to lose this many people. The effects will ripple out - in concentric circles.

What is the impact of all this violence on our students? I know that for students at Columbine High School who survived, it brought back memories of their own experiences when they heard about Sandy Hook. The same happened to students and parents at Sandy Hook when they heard about Parkland. What about students from Parkland? 

I was shocked to read that since Columbine High School in 1999, more than 311,000 students have been in schools where there was gun violence. For many, each time there is another incident, they are traumatized once more.

I know that counselors are often sent to the school immediately after the event. But what of students and families who have experienced this violence when the next time a school shooting happens? They may well be traumatized again. Do they continue to get counseling, and for how long? Some, of course, have private therapists. 

How many times can a person be re-traumatized? How can this continue?

Some of the students and families from Parkland were outspoken regarding gun laws and became activists. Some found themselves attacked by people on the internet. Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr expressed my feelings eloquently. 

If you read this regularly, I'm usually pretty optimistic. It's hard to be happy today. I know I will hug my children tightly. 

This country demonstrates time after time that we don't value our children. 

Because of the price we're paying, the loss of children and adults to gun violence is too high a price. We need to find a solution. And we need more than just thoughts and prayers. If you have any ideas, I'd like to hear them.

On a happier note, my guest on my Livestream this week was Dr. Sebrina Lindsey-Law. She is currently the Coordinator for Equity and Opportunity for Virginia Beach Public Schools. Dr. Lindsey-Law spoke of the intensity effect.

Explaining her doctoral dissertation, Lindsey-Law said she noticed from the time she was young that people have a desire to belong or to connect. She looked at how school principals practice adaptive leadership with their staff. They establish trust, invest in people, and give the team the tools and resources needed to do their jobs.

In explaining the intensity effect, Lindsey-Law described it as a level of engagement. She notes that they desired prior practice, feedback (from coaches), and repeated practice. Using the example of basketball players, she said that intentional practice is necessary. Basketball players employ deliberate practice, practicing drills over and over.

She noted that we can't operate efficiently at high intensity and that sometimes we need to operate at moderate and low intensity. However, having one or two high-intensity days mixed with moderate intensity and low intensity will, over time, produce results. She shared the example of trying to get back into exercise - something that is hard to maintain at a high level daily. 

Rather than speaking of a learning gap, she asked, "is it an opportunity gap or a mindset gap?" as she cautioned against deficit thinking. Lindsey-Law emphasized the importance of meeting people where they are and recognizing that it takes a community to accomplish goals.

Lindsey-Law asks herself, "am I going to do what's best for students or what I'm comfortable with?" I think you'll enjoy listening to the Livestream.


Book Dr. Eakins for your next event.

P.S. Are you an educator in Illinois? I'm coming to you! Check out this upcoming training happening in August!


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