Message From Richard: Stronger Connection, Not Ammunition, Is the Answer

The deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parklawn, Florida, adds to a sadly growing list of tragic incidents involving gun-related violence in schools.

After each incident, the nation debates banning assault weapons or increasing funding for mental health services.

Parklawn students continue to make their voices heard. Enough is enough they say. We need to do something.

They’re right. The task of addressing this problem is not just on legislators nor is it solely about what schools can and should do. Addressing violence in our schools is everyone's responsibility.

But talking about it through narrow fixes, such as gun control mental health services, is not enough.

Instead, we must focus on how to prevent students from feeling detached and isolated. How? Afterschool programs, mentoring programs, summer employment opportunities, and other similar activities give students a chance—no matter race, gender or economic background—to be connected and to pursue their interest, discover their passion, and tap into their potential.  

So, we must:

  • Balance academics with social and emotional learning, civic service and life skills;
  • Build early warning and easy referral systems for students, educators and families; and
  • Establish places young people can easily get counseling, peer support and other things they can't find at home or school.

Gun control and more public funding for mental heath services are absolutely necessary but, as isolated strategies, don’t get to the root of the problem of detachment, isolation and tolerance for violence.

Teachers shouldn’t be defenders; they should be facilitators of learning. Students don't need to feel scared; they need to feel supported. Schools shouldn’t be isolated and fenced; they should be part of the community. 

This is not the time for polarizing debate but rather for a connected community to say to our young people: we are all in this together.