By Mary-Sherman Willis
School shootings have become a growing cancer in our school system. The horrifying slaughter of children at Parkland, Columbine and Sandy Hook are etched in our collective memories. Even one murder in school is too many. Still, most American schools are remarkably safe places. As David Ropeik’s piece in the March 11 Washington Post details, since Columbine in 1999 “roughly 200 public school students have been shot to death while schools have been in session. …The statistical likelihood is roughly 1 in 614,000,000.” Far more kids are shot outside school, if that’s a consolation.
The NRA is dictating the terms of our response by blocking all efforts to rid our county of military-style guns designed to hunt and kill people. As representatives of the gun manufacturers, the NRA, abetted by their Republican patsies and President Trump, are pressuring for yet more guns in the schools, a “cure” which would certainly result in more killings in the schools, not less.
Congress seems ready to put up millions of dollars to “harden” our schools, in the president’s words. Students will be looking for school shooters behind every door. Their teachers are to be conscripted as their bodyguards. In the terror of the moment, how easy it would be for a rapid response team to mistake a teacher with a handgun for a deranged shooter.
After Columbine, the federal government put together a better solution to gun violence in our schools, one that offered students and schools some healthy alternatives to violence. While providing some training and support to school resource officers, the Safe Schools/Healthy Schools Grants built up school mental health treatment, recognizing that schools are the main source of mental health services for children, and that early intervention is the best way to stop violence and bullying.
While Congress dithers in Washington, we must take local action. It’s budget time in Rappahannock. This is the time to press for better mental health services in our schools, and not more guns, so that our children can grow up healthy and safe.
The writer lives in Woodville