How to actually reduce school shootings

Love all those kids walking out of their high schools today.  Love that not only did my high schooler walk out, his middle-school brother did, too.  David even made his own sign he was pretty proud of (“nerf or nothing”).  Apparently a few of his classmates didn’t like making the walk-out “political.”  David forthrightly let his classmates know that walking out of school to protest lack of government action to keep school safe(r) from gun violence is, of course, inherently political.  Oh, such a proud dad (I leave the non-proud dad stuff out of the blog 😉 ).  Actually, here’s the photo:


Anyway, it reminded me of this excellent NPR story from a week ago on “how to prevent the next school shooting.”  Lots of good stuff, and guns are only part of the equation:

Their topline message: Don’t harden schools. Make them softer, by improving social and emotional health.

“If we’re really talking about prevention, my perspective is that we should go for the public health approach,” says Ron Avi Astor at the University of Southern California, who also helped draft the plan.

A public health approach to disease means, instead of waiting for people to be rushed to emergency rooms with heart attacks or the flu, you go into the community: with vaccinations, screenings, fruits and vegetables, walking trails and exercise coaches. You screen and regulate environmental hazards, like a nearby polluting factory. You keep watch on reported cases of illness, to stop a new outbreak in its tracks.

A public health approach to school shootings, Astor explains, would be much along the same lines.

Instead of waiting for people to, again, be rushed into emergency rooms, you go into the community with preventive resources. You do your best to lower the background levels of bullying and discrimination. You track the data and perform what is called “threat assessments” on potential risks.

And, these experts say, you remove the major “environmental hazard” that contributes to gun violence: the guns. The eight-point plan calls for universal background checks, a ban on assault-style weapons, and something called Gun Violence Protection Orders: a type of emergency order that would allow police to seize a gun when there is an imminent threat.

What sets this call to action apart from other policy proposals is not gun control, however, but the research-based approach to violence prevention and response. This is a long haul, say the experts, not a quick fix…

Prevention: The first step

School climate may sound fuzzy or abstract. It means the quality of relationships among the students and the adults in a school. It’s affected by the school’s approach to discipline and behavior, the availability of professionals like counselors and social workers, as well as any social-emotional curriculum taught in the classroom.

School climate, in turn, affects students’ mental and emotional health and academic success. And research by Astor and others has consistently found key factors that can make schools safer: cultivate social and emotional health, connect to community resources and respond, particularly, to troubled students.

Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, the very kids who bring weapons to school are more likely to report being bullied or threatened themselves. They may be fearful of gang violence and feel a need to protect themselves on the way back and forth to school.

Or, they may be individually ostracized and aggrieved. This is true not just in the United States, says Astor, but in “Kosovo, Canada, Chile, Israel, the kids who bring weapons to school are reporting tons of victimization.”

So, if you devote resources to shutting down bullying, discrimination and harassment, there is a chance to de-escalate conflict before it starts.

And research shows that school climate measures really work. In fact, there has been a steady downward trend in bullying and harassment over the past decade, which Catherine Bradshaw at the University of Virginia attributes in part to evidence-based social and emotional measures.

Lots more good stuff in the article.  And hey, we don’t have to fight the NRA and gun nuts on most of it.  So, let’s make it happen!


A few quick thoughts on PA-18

1) Looks like Lamb is gonna win– hooray.  That sound.  The real hooray is that Lamb made it super-close in an district Trump won by 20.  That’s big and meaningful sign (in combination with plenty of other similar signs) for November.  Honestly, it matters hardly at all that Lamb will likely actually win (small lead, the twitter cognoscenti think he’ll hold it).  This district won’t even exist in November.  But, that closeness truly is meaningful.

2) Damn, special elections are fun to watch on twitter with all the journalist and PS election nerds.  Lots of great jokes about the non-functioning NYT election “needle.”

3) Some tweets I really liked:

4) And I liked Chait’s take that Democrats have a pretty effective template for elections like these.  Now, I would argue that in today’s hyper-polarized world, candidates don’t really matter all that much.  But they matter at the margins.  And if Democrats take back the House it will likely be on the back of many narrow 51-49, etc., margins.  And at that level, the candidate does make a difference.  Chait:

But there are a lot of Conor Lambs out there. Very early in the election cycle, Democrats recruited candidates with non-traditional backgrounds, especially in the military, that would appeal to voters in red districts. “A rough profile of [Democrats’] ideal candidate has started to emerge: veterans, preferably with small business experience too,” reported Politico last April. “They’d like as many of them to be women or people who’ve never run for office before — and having young children helps.” The next month, Axios reported that Republicans were already worried about “Democrats recruiting unusually high quality House candidates for the 2018 midterms.” It listed several:..

Recruiting veterans is an effective strategy for overcoming the Republican tilt of the House map which requires Democrats to contest deeply conservative territory in order to have a chance to gain a majority. Republican politics for decades has used ethnonationalist themes to sell voters on an unpopular economic agenda. The election messaging is about American flags, crime, and being tough on terrorism, and the policy agenda is about lax business regulation and regressive tax cutting.

The disconnect between the politics and the policy is its weak point. The Republican strategy can be hacked. The most powerful Republican theme is that Democrats are not “one of us,” aren’t tough, don’t love their country. A candidate with a compelling biography, especially ones who have a military background, can disarm these attacks pretty easily. It is not a panacea, but a major advantage nonetheless.

It’s still a long way till November and lots can happen between now and then.  But based on what we know now, all signs really do point to a very good election for Democrats.

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