The start of a new school year is exciting for kids?new friends, new teachers, new opportunities. But in a recent CNN/Time poll, one-third of teens who responded said that they are fearful of a violent incident happening at their school. And teens aren't the only ones affected.
Last year, my daughter, then a high school freshman, asked me if she could stay home on the anniversary of the Columbine school massacre. The week prior to April 20, there had been three threats of violence written on a wall in the school bathroom. The principal spoke to the students over the PA system encouraging their attendance on the 20th and assuring them of their safety. My middle school son was worried for his sister, and my two elementary-age daughters cried for her safety and questioned their own. The fear was like cancer, metastasizing and contaminating our whole family.
Whether your child is 6 or 16, you've undoubtedly questioned his safety while he's away at school. While our society has yet to find a solution to the complex causes of school violence, we don't have to sit by and wait for the culture to get better. Instead, we can take these tragedies and use them to teach our children invaluable lessons in empathy and compassion.
Searching for Answers
There isn't any one thing that turns a child toward violence. However, the National School Safety Center lists specific characteristics of youths who have caused school-associated violent deaths. Those characteristics include being on the fringe of his/her peer group with few or no close friends; being bullied and/or intimidating peers or younger children; being depressed and/or experiencing significant mood swings.1