Preventing violence in schools by addressing mental health issues

Tomorrow's school shootings can be prevented if the warning signs of it can be recognized today.

That is the message in the most recent public service announcement by the Sandy Hook Promise organization.

It also sums up a key strategy in the governor's school safety plan.

Tonja Gray, the Vice President for the Association of Texas Professional Educators and a teacher at Abilene's Reagan Elementary School, said that she is not the only one on the fence when it comes to teachers and guns.

It is teachers like Gray who helped balance out the conversations over the summer at Governor of Texas Greg Abbott's roundtable discussions on school safety and helped put an action plan together for 2018.

"I personally would rather see us shore up our campuses in other ways. We need counselors who are counseling. We need mental health training. We need to be more observant and more proactive in having those conversations about how to bring all the kids into the fold and not push kids out to the side,” Gray said.

Gray said that counselors who are equipped to help identify students with problems are now managing standardized testing instead of helping students with psychological issues.

According to Gray, that leaves teachers like her, administrators and other district employees to watch for the warning signs of school shootings without having the proper training to detect them.

Wylie Independent School District Assistant Superintendent Craig Bessent said that Wylie ISD, which has a school marshals program, is also leading the state with programs on preparing teachers to detect certain concerning behaviors.

"If we do a good job at preventing, you know, changing, making our climate better and intervening on those students that need help, maybe we won’t have this conversation. Maybe we won't have to talk about school marshals, extra school resource officers. Because we used to not have that discussion," said Bessent.

Past school shootings show that there were warning signs that could have been detected that could have prevented the bloodshed.

However, even when students speak up, such as the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a shooter may still manage to carry out their terrible plans.

Those who advocate for the school marshals program said that educators with weapons will help in the most critical moments of a school shooting, possibly being the difference between life and death for students and other staff members.

Advocates for the school marshals program also said that many educators are willing to protect students without weapons, so arming teachers and staff puts them on the same playing field as the shooter.

Everyone agrees that teachers and administrators said that they need to all be on the same page, do more to remove a potential threat and seek out help for those at risk of instigating violence at school.

"I think this whole plan that we're working through with the governor, you know, that prevention, finding those issues and then intervene and then something about it. Not just punishing kids. That's the problem we have,” said Bessent.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off