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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

School Shootings——What Should We Do?

Another School Shooting. This one hits close to home as I lived very close to Reynolds High School and had many friends who graduated there.  Whenever the school shootings happen there is so much debate about how to help things go differently—and yet there doesn't seem to be much solution focused energy.

For things to change we can't do the same things that aren't working or look at the picture the same way we have in the past. We need to be innovative, preventative, and solution focused. We have some of the most brilliant people in our midst and I can't help but wonder if they could look at these awful shootings in a different light and help come up with some solutions instead pointing fingers at what seems to be causing the problems.

The Problem
Human behavior is an interesting thing. You know how when a child falls down and hurts themselves in a minor way but you, as the parent, don't really see it or the doesn't think you do and they brush themselves off and go back to playing? That same child, if they notice you saw them biff it, will pour on the dramatics and wail and moan.

We don't seem to grow out of that phase much as we grow up as teenagers and adults. Things matter more or become more dramatic in shared experiences. You don't throw water on a grease fire and you shouldn't put more emphasis on a negative behavior—we know this, right?

Some Examples of Change
In my experience as an adolescent therapist if I have a teen, who I know is attention seeking, and they have a panic attack. I don't fall all over them and rush to get people, etc. I work with the teen, move them to a private space/room, and talk them through the panic attack. The less drama, peers, etc. the more the teen can focus on themselves, their breathing, the cause of the attack and less on the attention seeking. It is amazing ho the less attention the teen gets for that behavior, in this case attention seeking panic attacks, the less frequent the behavior happens.

Another example I saw over an over while being a Wilderness Therapist at ANASAZI was when a YoungWalker would run away from his/her group or choose to sit instead of hiking. Both choices are power seeking negative behaviors. So the Staff have a really two choices act or react.  To react is to negatively punish the sitting or running student, to be punitive, to take away their shoes, or have the other kids "attack" the sitting kid to "make" him/her hike. The other choice is change the situation entirely. 

If we had a sitter then the TrailWalkers just changed their plans. They turned sitting time in journal time, skill making time, letter writing time, etc.  Thus knocking out all the power and wind in the sails of the kid who decided to sit. For the runner at ANASAZI we just took the approach of running with them. Eventually (mind you we are in the Tonto National Forest, 5th largest in the nation), they get tired, hungry, cold, or realize they didn't find a house or road. Then after how many miles of running they are faced with two choices: stay and weather out the night or go back to camp. Thus, they put out their own power struggle. They never run again-they didn't get what they wanted.

One more common example: If a child reeks havoc in the grocery store b/c they want a candy bar them mom/dad can either give the child what they want or they can walk out the store. It only takes a few times of walking out of the store before that child stops asking for the candy bar. I believe, to some degree, we've put ourselves in a similar situation. If I want revenge or I'm full of hate, or self loathing, or any number of reasons I can either hurt myself or others. Why hurt myself or others on a small scale--where a few people might hear about me or talk about me—when I murder a mass amount of people and die in infamy. Either way I'm going to die. School shootings are devastating and that isn't going to change but removing the power, the infamy, the global attention—I believe, over time, this will change things.
All these examples are to say that there are different ways to deal with power struggles,  attention seeking, payback, and general negative behaviors—it just takes work and changing the entire situation.

What Doesn't Work
I don't need to share with you any statistics because you already know this but focusing on gun control doesn't stop school shootings. Focusing on mental health doesn't stop school shootings? While they are helpful anti-bullying programs or things like this don't stop school shootings. Focusing on better parenting doesn't stop school shootings. 

In fact, it would seem the more we focus on these different potential causes of the rapidly increasing school shootings the more elusive the solutions seem to get. People are stunned at why this keeps happening at at a loss of what to do.

Suggestions/ Solutions
I am just one person here in the big world of ideas but like the examples above, and from what we already know through experience, it makes sense to me that in any situation where there is negative behaviors being exhibited then we don't want  give that person/situation power or control. So the solution, in some ways is anticlimactic.  We as the audience or the people need to let go of our need to part of the show. We need to walk out of the room or in the case with school shootings we need to stop enshrining malicious negative attention seeking behaviors.

In short, one of my suggestions is to start there, to maybe start passing legislation that states it is illegal to print, film, etc anything to do with the school shooters. People use to grieve local tragedies with their neighbors and their clergy, and they survived. Now negative attention like school shootings  are a global affair, money is raised, media goes on for days, weeks, months, debates are had, articles are written, and infamy is formed.  I am not suggesting we don't care. People have phones, family, churches, friends, etc. They will find a way to get the help they need but we need to start taking the crying child out of the store. The less focus on the shooters=the less enticing it would seem the mass violence would. 

This is not to say that school shootings will stop but over time, I believe, they won't have as much power or control. Like the kids that run away from ANASAZI, the more attention given to that event the more it seems to happen. But I have been at ANASAZI for LONG periods of time where it wasn't even thought of to run away. It was like that option didn't exist-it was amazing. And then some kid, as they do, used their gift of choice to run away, and it was up to us how we reacted in order to help things go right for the future.

I know it doesn't sound like much but I am all for doing things differently then we have  been doing them. I am all about looking at the picture in a different way. I wonder if you have any other ideas or solutions/suggestion you've thought of about this topic??

1 comment:

  1. As a teacher, I think about this every day, especially since this event in our school district: I don't know that there is one single answer, but I agree that our media needs to stop giving so much attention to the perpetrators. I also think more accessible mental health care would be helpful. It seems like many of our recent shooters have exhibited clear signs of either mental or emotional instability prior to the tragic events - that was certainly true of the case in my district - and I have to wonder how those things are overlooked. Are we too worried about being politically correct? Are we reluctant to label someone? Are we so worried about appearances that we are endangering ourselves and our children? I think so.