Sunday, December 15, 2013

School shootings hit too close to our home. Why Colorado again? What will work?.

Too often we see television news about another  school shooting. Is this the new normal? Why Colorado…again?     If the tragedies of Sandy Hook, Aurora, and  Columbine  did not move legislators  to make it more difficult for those who have mental health issues to get access to guns, what will work?
 We grieve at a distance for the shooting  victims with  heartfelt sympathy and relief that our own children are safe and far away. In the past twelve  months, all of this became too close to home for our family.  
The shooting at Arapahoe High in Centennial last Friday  shook our family for the second time. Our granddaughter, Heidi, is a junior there, but her mother  had text me within an hour of the event   she had received word from  her daughter, our beloved granddaughter, that she  was safe. We now pray for the shooter’s emotional and physical victims.
The night before, we proud grandparents had attended Arapahoe’s annual holiday concert in the school auditorium  and we focused on  Heidi, first chair cellist in the school orchestra.   How normal, so normal, it seemed that night.  The next day traumatized us.
Our 11 year old grandson, Max,  attending a school 15 minutes from Newtown’s Sandy Hook exactly a year ago, huddled under his desk, locked down,  in that tragic morning. Heidi and Max will never look at life quite the same again.
 School shootings have   become a part of school life…a new normal.   Heidi’s mother teaches elementary  school in the part of Jefferson County that feeds into Columbine, the template for disturbed youth to carry out their anger/revenge  fantasies.  Her school and others across the US  constantly drill  for dealing with  such  incidents and like all teachers, she is on the front line with the awesome burden of protecting  her students.
 There is a pattern nationwide..  Shooters  were or had been students in the schools . They were young adult males in a period of brain development  when many mental health  issues kick in. The schools were   in upper or middle  income white suburban neighborhoods.    Over 62% of Colorado  families with children   dwell  in  suburbs  vs  35% nationally,  so “why Colorado?”  may be a matter of demographics .  Perhaps sociologists can  make more sense of this.
 What works? Law enforcement has learned  from each incident and it paid off in Arapahoe High  Their response limited the carnage. Tactical training for responders, in-school armed  police, student drills and teacher leadership  worked. If the copy cats  conclude this method of  acting out will not be  successful,  perhaps the  epidemic may fade.   We can hope.
Better mental health care is imperative.  Economic barriers are being reduced.  All health insurance must  cover mental health treatment  thanks to the Affordable Care Act requirements. This year, the Colorado legislature approved Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposal that funds  hot lines for concerned families and individuals seeking help and resources,  provides walk in clinics  at  local venues,  and a public education campaign. Last week, $100 million in federal assistance was allocated to mental health support programs. Parents are learning from media coverage  to spot  danger signs and the necessity of early intervention.  All of those measures will  help. None will keep our children and grandchildren 100% safe,  but if they reduce  deaths from shooter  incidents, hooray.

No comments:

Post a Comment