Grieving. Let Your Voice be Heard 1,400 miles Away.
Our hearts are broken for the families and community of Uvalde, Texas. The unimaginable terror that the innocent children faced at their school–a place where safety should be expected and guaranteed–is unacceptable. The potential of future change-makers was grotesquely robbed by the use of an assault weapon breaching the walls of a fourth-grade classroom. The survivors will carry that trauma with them for the rest of their lives. Their families, community, and our country carry the grief and loss with us: hopefully not turning numb but taking action to prevent another senseless act of violence that can be prevented.
As a nation, as a community, as individuals within that community and nation, we must take action now! It is time we rip off the band-aid approaches that fail to address the heart of issues, like mass shootings, and create a system that cares for our most vulnerable children. School shootings won't be solved with more armed police officers or guards or by arming our school teachers. Easy access to guns, whether at home or purchasing, is contributing to the problem. We need solutions!
The school shooters in Uvalde, Parkland, Santa Fe, Newton, and Columbine were all under the age of 21; so, let's use the science of what we know. The human brain is not fully developed at 18 or even 21, and sometimes not at age 25. 18 year-olds are impulsive and should not be permitted to go out and purchase guns. It is not a matter of taking away our Second Amendment right to bear arms but refining gun laws to prohibit young civilians from purchasing assault weapons that result in senseless mass shootings.
In addition to looking at our gun laws, we must address our policies around and access to mental health care, particularly prevention and early intervention for children experiencing adverse childhood experiences. In a report by the Secret Service, they found that nearly all school shooters experienced negative home life factors, most had been bullied or had a history of school disciplinary issues, and all exhibited concerning behaviors. There are costly, long-term consequences when we ignore the impact of these experiences. At what point is the price too high?
We must ensure that EVERY child has a sense of safety, connectedness, and belonging. We must tackle things like bullying and help children develop the skills to promote self-regulation, conflict resolution, stress management, empathy, and resilience.
Currently, most mental health supports wait until a child is experiencing a crisis or behavioral concern. We must be able to actively identify kids not only with externalizing behaviors, but those with internalizing behaviors–those silent children who are often missed and may be the victims of abuse, domestic violence, or bullying. Equipping our schools to take a widespread approach with prevention, including training and support, is also key to stopping these tragedies.
As our broken hearts bleed with sadness, anger, and grief, let's take action. Our nation, our communities, our children deserve more. Every child deserves to grow up feeling safe and loved–especially in school.
At the Center for Child Counseling, we focus on a public health approach to building awareness and action around addressing childhood adversity and trauma. We were founded with the vision that every child will grow up feeling safe and nurtured in communities where they can thrive. We will continue to bring awareness to system leaders around fighting childhood adversity with advocacy and action. We invite you to join us. Take action and let your voice be heard!
Renée Layman, President and CEO