Home Visiting for School-Based Educators: Planning for Safety

family of four walking at the street

As we embark upon a new school year, for educators,  establishing partnerships with families should be one of this year’s top priorities. Whether your work is in schools or community settings, involving and engaging parents is a MUST. Simply because there is a school-wide parent liaison employed in the building, the total responsibility for parent partnerships does not rest with him or her completely.

Liaisons engage parents individually, but their main focus is on the groups of parents whose children attend your school. Home-visiting is a shared responsibility. In fact, it is not in the job description for liaisons to partner with every parent of every one of your students. The liaison’s role is to build parent capacity to navigate the education system, as the chief advocate and influence in their child’s life, growth and development. Parent liaisons are there to foster atmospheres which invite participation, alliances and are responsive to parents as a group.

Parents are critical influences who impact their children’s academic success and overall school performance, and we need them. Parents are the first and the supplemental teachers in children’s growth and development. If you wish to know the young person with whom you engage in the classroom, parents can’t be left out of that discovery.

woman kissing cheek of girl wearing red and black polka dot top

Some parents are more readily accessible to educators, and are more often active engagers at school. Some parents are reluctant engagers, whether by circumstance, past experience or no cultural history of active engagement at school. No matter which, they all are still active in the home and necessary allies with schools.

Parents and families who are traditionally under-served by policy, practice or circumstance, tend to be  misunderstood, maligned, feared and in turn-they make up your reluctant engagers.

What this informs us is that, since it is often difficult[but not impossible] to have them come in to the school as active participants in the learning process, we have to meet them where they are. That is if we are sincere in the aim to connect with them and promote achievement of their children.

Meeting parents where they are is both literal and figurative. We must seek to understand their lives, concerns, strengths and experiences. While an increasingly diverse population attend our schools, a large number of students are learners living in poverty. They are increasingly black and brown and educators remain largely white.

Cultural differences can create real divides between teachers and students. If teachers entered the field aiming to educate ALL learners, then it is essential that they learn about them and their families, as well as the communities in which they live.

man and toddler walking near birds

Teaching in the 21st Century will be somewhat reminiscent of practices at a time in history when teachers were considered a real member of the school community family. They knew the children and they knew the parents of those children. They knew the community, needs, strengths and concerns.

Their intent was never to rest on a ‘status quo‘, particularly if it serves to normalize any disparities or avoidable stress. A part of the solution, not the problem, teachers were not silent, distant, or disinterested in the wellness of the children and families served. Though they weren’t always required to be residents of the community in which they taught, they were definitely invested.

Now called to establish meaningful relationships with parents, this means planning for entering their communities and comfort zones. When contemplating how this is to be done and what it looks like, first it is important to know that most homes are safe, no matter where they are.

According to U.S. Department of Health & Human Welfare, only 3-7% of homes pose threats to worker safety. What is important to know is that you do have a personal responsibility for your own safety. With that said, you should be aware of your surroundings at all times. You want to take precautions before you make your first visit. And you will want to be preventive and proactive with every home visit you make. Let the following precautions and considerations become a health and safety- conscious habit.

Before your visit:

  • Gather information about the area. You need to know what to expect and yet, you don’t ever want to expect the worse case scenarios. You just want to be informed.
  • Call the home to confirm your appointment time. This gives the family advanced notice, a reminder that you are still coming. It allows them time to put the dog away, remove any drug paraphernalia, get properly dressed or wash dishes. It simply gives them time to spruce up.
  • Plan visiting during daylight hours. Try for the sunniest part of the day. This will be the most active times in the community, and that decreases risks of harm or danger.
  • Charge your cell phone ahead of time to make certain that you can communicate with your office, or school, if needed.
  • Make sure you have at least 1/4 tank of gas in your car if driving a personal vehicle. If traveling by bus, become acquainted with the routes and schedules. Plan accordingly.
  • Supply your office or supervisor with your visiting schedule. Also, should any changes arise, update the office right away. You want your whereabouts to be known at all times for your safety.
  • Leave any valuable items in the trunk of your car for safety, and you want to place them there before arriving at your destination.group of kids playing on the streets

What you should also have in your car at all times is:

  • very little money,
  • a phone charger,
  • a first aid kit in the trunk,
  • a change of clothes, in a sealed plastic bag,
  • hand sanitizer and hand wipes,
  • car battery jumper cables, too. It is best to have a battery- powered cable. This way you won’t need another vehicle if your car battery dies.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Think about what you wear. You should avoid any expensive-looking items or provocative wear. Don’t make yourself a target. Be professional.

This is not exhaustive of safety considerations for home visiting.  Safety first! Prepare for safe and successful visits. Next up, we explore considerations upon arrival at your appointed homes.

 

Home Visiting: Planning For Safety on the Inside[Part 3]

Home Visiting: What are your safety plans for once you have entered the home?

Once you have arrived at a parent/family’s place of residence, you still must plan for your safety. Therefore your safety plan is not complete. Careful assessments of the home environment as well as the people and their relational dynamics must be quickly and constantly evaluated for effecting safety and positive outcomes.

The message here is that once you’ve rung that doorbell or knocked on the door, this is the time when keen observational skills are needed to ensure your personal safety and the safety of every member of that household, too. If children are present at the time of your visit, observe their activity, general mood, and take note of the way they communicate with parents. These dynamics are the insights that will be particularly helpful to you at work.

After you have identified yourself at the door, upon entrance, ask if you may take a seat. If not offered a specific seat, ask where you should sit, but try to sit near the front door, close to the exit. Keep your phone and car keys nearby, and easily accessible. This is important to your safety if your initial visit, your introduction to the family. Remember that this is their comfort zone, even if you aren’t very comfortable. What ever you do, do not appear to be uncomfortable, for that will be perceived by the parents and they will be less receptive to you. They, too, will be uncomfortable.

Once a rapport has been established between you, and your familiarity with the family informs you that there is minimal risk associated with this home, some precautions may not be necessary. For good measure, you should develop a general safety routine and stick to it.

Be cautious about accepting any food or drink when visiting homes, and while safety and sanitary practices are appropriate concerns, there is a cultural element to consider. In some cultures, if a guest refuses an offer of food or drink, it may be perceived as disrespectful, which highlights the need for cultural sensitivity.

Overall, go with your gut feelings regarding your own health and safety. In cases where you wish not to offend your host, but do not wish anything from them, be proactive. Think about it ahead of time-just in case. What will you say? Try something like, “I just ate a big lunch.” Add to that statement a gracious ‘Thank you!’.

Also, understand that your job is not to change diapers, even if inclined to do so. I know, babies are adorable! When it comes to pets, whether you are a pet lover doesn’t much matter. Avoid petting their dogs or cats. You don’t know its health status. Politely ask that the family pet be confined.

girl in red short sleeve dress and flower headband holding pen and writing on paper on table

If you visit a home and a child comes to the door, announce yourself and ask for an adult. DO NOT enter the home, if a child is alone, and particularly under the age of 12. What is most appropriate is that you call 911 or child protective services. Have the child sit close to the door while you remain outside. One never knows what may be misinterpreted should you enter the home with that child. It is inappropriate to do so, and you place yourself at risk for all sorts of allegations of misconduct.

If the child appears frightened, having the child bring a chair to sit by the door allows you to have a calming and reassuring conversation to help him or her feel ‘safe’. Remain there until help arrives, hopefully the parent or relative.

During a home visit, if you happen to see any weapons or drug activity or paraphernalia, or if someone appears to be intoxicated or high, leave the home immediately. Similarly, if you witness any ongoing violence, inappropriate dress, radical changes in behavior, leave immediately.Body language will alert you to a potential for escalation towards aggression and violence. For instance, clenched fists are an indication that it’s best to exit the home. Research the ‘cycle of abuse’ phenomenon.

Verbal abuse may escalate into physical violence, and that is a clear sign that you should leave immediately. Once again, be proactive and respectful. Make an ‘excusable excuse’ for leaving suddenly.

If you suspect there may be cockroaches, fleas or bedbugs in the home, bring very few items with you. Some bugs may get into your belongings and travel with you into your environment. Avoid upholstered furniture. Look for hard furniture/chairs to sit. When you leave, find a safe place, remove your clothes and place them in a sealed plastic bag. Then change into fresh clothes[which should be already in your car trunk]. Take the worn clothes, wash them and then dry them for at least 30 minutes to ensure no organisms survive to infest your environment. Be mindful of lice and scabies. Know how they are spread, and the precautions to take.

The objective of home visiting programs are essentially the same. The aim is family empowerment and partnering-creating alliances to improve outcomes and quality of life for families. In education, home visiting programs are designed to establish trusting, meaningful relationships with parents in order to improve learning outcomes and total wellness of their school-age children.

tilt shift lens photography of woman wearing red sweater and white skirt while holding a boy wearing white and black crew neck shirt and blue denim short

Ideally, engaging and partnering with parents will ensure that the home and school environments align and support one another. Schools, by actively placing parents in the driver’s seat, as co-pilots, recognize the important influence of parents  in their child’s learning process. There is a healthy degree of co-dependence between them, and it enhances capacity for parents to parent and teachers to teach. Together, children are better equipped to learn and grow and develop as they navigate the school system.

Don’t be afraid or overly resistant to  change the way teaching was first proposed, when you were preparing for the profession. Education is more child-centered and family-focused in the 21st Century. As instruction is more personalized, educators need a solid grasp on the persons to whom they teach and engage. Debunking stereotypes and altering perceptions through increasing teacher capacity to effectively facilitate academic success among diversely represented learners is critical.

Equally critical is partnering with parents and caregivers to facilitate student achievement. Determined a responsibility of schools and educators at schools, meeting parents where they are now means venturing out into their communities and their homes-comfort zones. Educators, step outside of your comfort zones and welcome parents into the teaching and learning process.

For the most part, visiting the homes of your students will be challenging, but safe and fruitful. All parents want the same thing for their children. As educators, your goals organically align. Collaborate, consult, and confer with parents. Go home! Embarking upon home visits offers you, as educators and agents of change in children’s lives, opportunities to employ the expertise of parents as co-teachers, and maximize your capacity to foster student excellence.

Statistically, 95% of the homes you will visit will not pose any real threats to your safety. With a strengths-based approach, be positive while actively listening and observing more than talking. Invite questions and communicate your genuine interest and desire to facilitate the best learning outcomes for their children in your classroom.

Acknowledge parental importance to the learning process and offer yourself as a resource for helping them help their child successfully navigate the school system. Create sustainable alliances with the people who have the strongest influence on academic achievement and student performance, both in and outside of the classroom. It is in everybody’s best interest to do so.

Happy visiting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Student Safety: What Should Parents Expect From Schools?


Traumatic brain injuries? In gym class? How often does this happen?

According to a study released by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, more than 60,000 U.S. students are hurt each year during gym class. A physical education teacher is expected to supervise children engaged in a multitude of exercise movements and activities in a large and open physical environment. This requires good planning, best practices, and proper supervision.

What should parents expect when they leave their children in supposedly safe, supportive and challenging school environments? How about during gym/physical education[PE] class time?

Providing a safe physical environment and organizing activities in a manner that promotes safety and injury prevention is critical to physical education. The concept of a safe vs. unsafe physical environment can be described through two different scenarios:

  • Scenario A. Due to inclement weather all PE classes are required to relocate to the gym and the space is crowded. The teachers on duty break the students into a circuit to utilize gym space properly, creating enough space for exercises to be executed while maintaining an environment where the teachers are able to walk around the groups and supervise the students using visibility and proximity.
  • Scenario B. Same as scenario A, however the teachers decide to separate the gymnasium by activity, having a group of students play basketball on one end of the court and another group play wiffle ball on the opposite end. A basketball player runs for a loose ball just as a runner in the other game heads to third base and they collide; one suffers a head injury and the other, a broken wrist.

These two scenarios demonstrate the importance of organizing a physical environment to provide separation of activities and adequate supervision. Scenario A arranged the student activity in a manner that was amenable to teacher supervision and provided activities in which students could be properly spaced, generally creating a safe environment for physical activity. Scenario B failed to provide a safe environment. By arranging student activities in a manner that invited collisions, the teachers increased the likelihood for injury.

Student safety must be a primary concern in the physical education environment. As a result of large class sizes, dynamic activities, equipment usage, outdoor fields, and students of all sizes and physical abilities integrated in the same physical space, these classes inherently require a higher concern for safety than other educational environments.

Teachers are the first line of defense in providing a safe educational environment and must consider a number of factors that may contribute to student injury or harm. A routine walk through before the children enter the area should be conducted to identify and correct or eliminate any hazards in the facility/grounds. This simple process is frequently the best prevention for slip hazards, clutter that may contribute to trip injuries, or any other issues that require attention. Teachers must also consider elements specific to their environment that may be conducive to assaults, abuse, or dangerous horseplay; examples of such areas may include locker rooms, retractable bleachers, and other secluded areas. All of these issues need to be managed within the context of the students, and it is important for teachers to adjust their classroom management in a way that accounts for special needs students and other behavioral concerns.

  • Lessons must be planned and coordinated for the allotted space
  • All areas need to be inspected for hazards
  • Equipment needs to be appropriate for the activity and routinely inspected
  • All grounds need to be assessed before activities begin and monitored for safety and security

Teachers and administrators collaboratively are responsible for putting supervisorial methods in place that create a safe environment for children. These responsibilities include:

  • matching students by age, size, and skill-levels for physical activities;
  • developing curriculum and activities that consider proper skill progression for the entire group; and
  • designing activities that are safe and appropriate within the available fields and facilities.

When an injury does occur to a child during PE, creating an emergency action plan in advance can be critical to the outcome. It is imperative to have an emergency team in place to respond. School administrators and teachers should have roles assigned and established communication plans. Practice drills should be performed on a quarterly basis to ensure everyone understands their roles and will be able to respond in the event of an emergency.

Gym/PE Safety Guidelines

  • Team members must model safe practices at all times, supervise appropriately and communicate safety expectations to children.
  • Team members must develop procedures to ensure the highest possible level of safety, while allowing children to engage in a broad range of challenging activities.
  • Team members must communicate to children the safety rules and the importance of safe practices at the beginning of each lesson and to parents through school newsletters, agendas and so on.
  • Wherever possible, potential risks must be identified and procedures developed to prevent or minimize the risk of accidents or injuries (e.g., noticing a rock sticking out of a field, designating that area out of bounds with a pylon and reporting it to school/facility officials for safe removal).
  • Outline the possible risks of the activity (warnings of possible dangers); demonstrate how to minimize the risks and set procedures and rules for safe play.
  • It is important that team members have concern for their own and children’s safety, and that they ensure safe practices are followed at all times when using materials and equipment and when participating in performance tasks.
  • Any team member who is providing instruction and is unfamiliar with the techniques/equipment used for the activity must seek assistance from appropriate support staff and/or refrain from using the equipment until instructional support is received.
  • Inspect the equipment to ensure that it is in good condition.
  • Children must be instructed in the proper use of the equipment before using it.
  • A first-aid kit should be easily accessible, and an emergency plan should be in place in case of accidents.
  • Children should be made to feel emotionally and psychologically comfortable at all times. For example, be aware of their comfort when they are changing for physical activity, forming groups, demonstrating physical tasks and discussing health topics.
  • Team members need to be aware of the medical background and physical limitations of their children (e.g., asthma, allergies). For children with medical conditions, know the school emergency action plan to implement in case of an emergency. For children with physical limitations, modify the activity to meet their specific abilities.
  • Early Learning–Kindergarten teams must establish routines, rules of acceptable behaviour and appropriate duties of children at the beginning of the year and reinforce these throughout the year. The Early Learning–Kindergarten team must sanction children for unsafe play or unacceptable behaviour and must exercise that responsibility at all times.
  • Children must be made aware of the rules of activities or games. Rules must be strictly enforced and modified to suit the age and physical, emotional, social and intellectual abilities of the participants.
  • For tag games, clearly define areas of the body that can be tagged (e.g., back, arms). Instruct children that a tag is a touch—not a push, punch or grab.
  • Due to the age of the children, the Early Learning–Kindergarten team must be present with the children at all times, providing on-site supervision.
  • Check that the equipment is suitable for the age and ability of children and size of the activity area.
  • Check that footwear is suitable for the activity (e.g., a tied running shoe with a flat, rubber, treaded sole) and that clothing is appropriate for freedom of movement.
  • Inspect that the surface of the activity area provides safe traction. Where carpets are being used, carpets must be flat and secured to the floor so as not to present a tripping hazard. Eliminate potential hazardous conditions (e.g., remove furniture and equipment not relevant to the activity, ensure classroom floors are free of books, backpacks and extension cords). 
  • When using the gymnasium, outline boundaries for the activity a safe distance from walls and obstacles (e.g., use the basketball court boundary lines or a set of pylons a safe distance from the walls).
  • When using the classroom, move furniture to the perimeter of the room and outline the activity area (e.g., using masking tape or pylons), keeping a safe distance from the furniture and walls.   
  • Explain (demonstrate where applicable) the movement skills to be performed in the activity.
  • Games and activities must be based on skills that have been taught.
  • Remind children to be cautious when moving and to be aware of the personal space of others.
  • Check that activities are spread out to minimize interference from other activities/games.
  • For classroom activities, include activities that have a controlled amount of movement (e.g., running on the spot, chair exercises).

While the majority of gym class injuries are soft tissue, such as sprains, minor cuts and bruising, a substantial number of more serious hard injuries happen, including head trauma, broken bones, broken teeth, eye injuries, and more.

While most injuries are unavoidably accidental, there are a number of others that are entirely avoidable and occur only because the school or the physical education teacher was negligent.

A question parents often raise concerns the liability of the school for their child’s gym class injuries. Is the school liable, and if so, under what circumstances? 
All schools, whether public, private, secular, or religious, have a legal duty of care (obligation) to protect their students from undue harm and bodily injury. The duty begins the minute the student steps on the school bus in the morning and ends when the student steps off the school bus at night (or leaves the school by other means).

When a school fails to do everything reasonably possible to protect its students, and that failure results in a student’s injury, the courts have traditionally said the school breached (violated) its duty of care. The breach is essentially the court’s declaration of the school’s negligence. When negligence occurs, the school becomes liable not only for the student’s injuries but also for the students’ subsequent damages.

Damages include reimbursement for the injured students’ medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses for medications, crutches, slings, etc., and if the child was in high school and had a part-time job, for his or her lost wages. If a parent had to miss work to take the child to and from treatment, the parent’s lost wages are included as well. Damages also include the child’s pain and suffering and emotional distress.

School Shootings or School Shootouts: Our Only Choices?

 

anthem

From the ridiculous to the sublime! First thought about having teachers carry weapons, guns, in our public schools, is that the imagery alone conjures up escalated numbers of school shootings, as though that is impossible once someone starts shooting innocent children and educators. School shootings are now becoming shootouts??? Scary thought!

I know, I know! The ‘hot’ topic of the day isn’t global warming, refugees or immigration. It is the most recent school shooting in Florida. Once again 17 lives were interrupted and many more lives are forever impacted. Among those lives lost, will be the lingering memories, and for many, certainly traumatic stress producing. Children, families, teachers, neighbors, friends, and many more people are the collateral damage produced by these horrible occurrences. ACEs don’t fully cover the range of help and support needed in this community, not to mention the families and communities where shootings have taken place before this one.

bored danger
It would seem to me that the bystander effect has taken control for long enough. Is it that everyone is still waiting for the next person to act in the best interest of the children and everyone else who happen to be in close proximity to an active shooter? I do not mean that teachers are standing in fear while awaiting the next teacher to step out of the shadows and kill or critically injure the active shooter. I don’t mean that any staff member must step out from safety and confront the perpetrator of this crime/cry for help, either.
First, could it possibly be that the shooter is making his/her final cry for help, recognition, support, guidance? Is it that, in the end game for this person, that their hope is that they too, are killed and thus their personal pain and suffering ends, along with the others? If you indulge me for a moment, suppose this is true. The latest shooter, as the others, felt unsupported, bullied, unaffirmed, undervalued, etc., for so long that this latest act was a retaliatory one in which it becomes clear that the recognition will be received. People will finally pay attention to them-‘see’ them, and also ‘feel’ the pain he or she felt for a long time.

Do we consider these as possibilities that are taken into account and consideration as we, not only help a community heal and process the tragedy, but as we plan to prevent another to be repeated by a different student in a different school, town, or wherever. What if signs of distress were present for so long, and not one person, even if recognized, said or did anything to help this young person when it wasn’t an unavoidable situation. Actually, it is never unavoidable, but always avoidable. For the individuals who are chronically suffering inside, all it takes is for one person to step up. Ask questions, refer, counsel, follow up- to make a difference between the day before the shooting when no one had a clue, and the day of and after when people’s lives have been uprooted and forever altered.

street fight

There is still an issue and ongoing debate about gun control in this country, and shouldn’t stop until it makes clear sense, the policies we attach surrounding access and to whom we permit that access. Also to be determined, under which clear and without loophole or ambiguity, conditions is usage excusable, allowed, or deemed ‘righteous’ under the law. There remains an issue central to our concerns in order to prevent these events. Seeking solutions that address how we react to these events should first emerge from the mindset in which an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. We must begin to pay closer attention to youth and their families as well.

Children can’t be expected to learn or thrive in environmental conditions that are stressful, inadequately poised, or which aren’t conducive to classroom learning and achievement. We understand that children have basic needs which must be met. In the immediate, we understand that they have developmental , physical, emotional, psychological needs which must exist on a level by which students may best acquire resilience and access outside supplemental supports regarding those needs. Is that not where schools step in?

With the number of hours children spend away from home, their primary environments, it only makes sense that we charge schools with undertaking the responsibility of advocacy in the absence of parents and caregivers. No, our role is not to parent, but support children and their parents ability to provide and support skills learned in school. We support the education process of children, and learning, not an isolated independent process, is optimized under certain conditions. It is at school that we provide and maintain those conditions-safe, supportive, healthy, challenging, and individually culturally responsive.

girl-stress

We have youth demonstrating a range of emotions and expressing them in extremely insensitive, harmful manners.  In incidents such as Parkland, not only is a statement being made to teachers, but students, parents and all associated with this environment, for it is apparent that there was great disappointment experienced by this youth within this setting. Anger is demonstrated against students, because not one supported, acknowledged or stood up for the student, and everyone else, whose job it was to provide those tools and skills that are critical to their healthy development. They, youth engaging in these acts, do realize the importance of the school environment, so why aren’t we?

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Instead, we limit funding, when education investing produces the best ROI possible. And, we are and should be investing in our future, our children’s future and the future of everyone else’s children. Instead, we limit school facilities, like building space, gymnasiums, playgrounds. These are critical to development. Instead we  mandate parents to send their children to learn in settings that are structurally unsound and unhealthy, e.g., lead running through it’s water supply. Instead of showing a clear commitment to the future of society, and ensuring quality public education and experiences for every child in public education systems, we limit books, guided by a narrow curriculum, materials no longer valuable or relevant to prepare children for their future economic, life and career demands.

We omit cultural competence, social-emotional skills, as an essential component of the general curriculum. We say one thing but demonstrate differently. Children are supposed to learn in environments with access and opportunity more readily available than out in the ‘real’ world. They are supposed to learn with state of the art technology and be fed the most healthful meals. That which children don’t have at home should be supplemented by the school. That demonstrates a commitment to ensuring bright futures for children and ourselves. Even in the best of communities, we still see these disturbing occurrences like school shootings, mass murders, and this must inform us that there is still something very deficient in the school environments themselves.

In that building, a Utopia must exist for children, even though we know that is not representative of the real world. However, in order to ensure that all children have bright futures and are productive members of a better society, they must have access to the very best that is available. If chaos is allowed to exist in schools, then we are preparing them for a chaotic society. We aren’t showing them what they can be, do, and achieve. We still limit access to possibilities, a very important factor of engagement and achievement AND healthy development.

We still teach children the same values taught when the law of the land accepted, recognized, supported and practiced inequality, discrimination, segregation, and separate but equal, knowing that was inherently wrong and an excuse to continue to discriminate and limit life possibilities for children of color, the economically disadvantaged. In relation to this shooting in a school, arming teachers would fail on every count and simply turns active shooters into school shootouts producing unnecessary collateral damage.

Comprehensively, we must train better, teacher more inclusively, and that includes mental health integrated into the curriculum, too. We must increase mental health professionals in every school, even those in the suburbs, because that’s where these events occur-all white communities. The increase of counselors, social workers and school psychologists should be grade-age specific, in the way content areas are taught under the curriculum-scope and sequence. Aren’t your children worth it?

If you believe that my children aren’t worth the added expense or greater investment, remember, we don’t and won’t exist in bubbles. In the future, my child may work for your child, may rob and shoot your child, may rape your daughter[pardon the explicit, but keeping it real as possible, because what we see is very real.]

If education unlocks the doors to a better, more peaceful, tolerant future in a global society, then in order to ensure that every student learner is given all the comprehensive supports needed to be solutions, not problems for society, then we must put our money where our mouths are. If we teach children to be upstanders, compassionate, and life-long learners, we must demonstrate it while offering ample opportunities to practice these principles. We must be compassionate, commit to life-long-learning and show upstander behaviors to others. We will set the climate and reflect a culture in which we affirm and recognize as well as encourage and empathize with others.

There must be a system of practices in place whereby students receive ample supports and opportunities to have access to safe places, staff who are guaranteed to listen and help build coping, resilience, and also advocate in their best interest. In order to do these things, we must advocate in the larger society for our policies to allocate funding in areas which demonstrate our commitment to the future and solutions-before they become problems.
Unfortunately, there will always be an anomaly, a random act of gross unkindness in this world, schools, and such, but being more proactive is a better solution than being reactive and/or by making politically-correct suggestions and gestures. I understand that some people are fearful of a more brown future population, and the loss of implied and inexplicable entitlement and privilege. Some are, at the core, fearful of power, illegally and unethically earned, and they fear losing it to those who legally or ethically earn it through aptitude and opportunity alone. They fear that someone will open a door and provide opportunity and access to someone ‘different’ and that is a real grounded fear, but doesn’t have to be. It speaks to us more than the other persons.
The solutions: I am unable to pinpoint the best, most economically sound decisions to be made that will effectively address the nation’s new fascination with tragedies like Parkland, Florida, but it is very clear that we must reorganize, reframe, reallocate and reenvision school settings and the framework of public education in order that we practice what years of research data has informed us. The ‘whole’ child approach cannot be adopted and fulfilled in schools until we train and staff professionals, multidisciplinary teams, similar to the way we employ pedagogues. The scales are tilted so far that children are failing and falling through the cracks of a system in which they are simply test scores and mere faces.

Proactive and most positive productive efforts to mitigate and interrupt potential incidents at our schools involves arming professionals, complementary to one another, with skills, tools, and sufficient staff to address the needs and strengths of students more individually and comprehensively. Not a new wealth of skills, tools and competencies, but a comprehensive wealth of competencies must be taught in school settings to respectfully, but proactively empower students and their families. We, as educators should look to non-violent evidence-based promising practices which will better enable them to achieve comprehensive wellness and live full lives as productive contributors to a global society.

Last thought to America, with all honesty and much respect, in those school settings when you hear tell of mass shootings as gun related crimes, it’s specifically not in those schools with marginalized populations. Gun related events occur with much less collateral damage in settings with majority ‘of color’ students no matter the economic circumstance. Why? Blacks, poorer groups and Latinx students are far more likely to be frisked, searched, subject to metal detectors at school, arrested and jailed for mere knife possession more often than guns. Legal possession is not the M.O. of this facet of gun-toting America. They are far less likely to be granted a license to legally possess one. Hence, the black market also thrives in the poorer areas. But, where are they getting them from? Unscrupulous white gun shops in different states with less strict regulations.

Certainly, semi-automatic weaponry is not the norm of access either. In viewing the stats, I would say that those opposing gun control should rethink their views on the issue. It is ALWAYS a caucasian kid who commits these deeds against their communities and fellow citizenry. Given this thought, it still does not negate the necessity to teach pro-social skills and social emotional skills in these communities. Trust me, it is definitely needed. However, this topic deserves consideration in more detailed discussion.

Share your thoughts, because I am certain that everyone has a unique view!