Taking on the root cause of school violence

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Sandra Weinstein

When the news of another shooting came across my newsfeed, it brought with it the usual responses on how we need to protect our schools, enact stronger, more rational gun laws, and a slew of excuses from video games to too many entrances into a school.

But there is something important missing: root cause analysis and solution.

No one is asking why anxiety issues and drug use are an epidemic among our teens, why suicide is the second leading cause of teen death in this country, why young men are shooting up their schools. We’re doing damage control, putting in place hopeful prevention measures, but no one is addressing the rising rate of mental health issues that drive our children, in the face of discomfort, to hide in their bedrooms, self medicate, or hurt themselves or others rather than persevere and focus on the future.

The simple problem is that our children lack resiliency.

I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself how I can support my own child, how I can help her face challenges and take risks while realizing that failing is not something to be ashamed of but that builds character and creates life experiences that help her be a better adult.

I’ve concluded that I can’t do this alone, that it does indeed take a village to raise a child, and one of the most important components in that village is the school. Our children spend more time in school often than they do with their families. There is an important opportunity for schools to provide the kind of support system to help families help their kids and create a culture of inclusion and mindfulness.

As a school board candidate, I was sometimes told by voters that schools needed to limit their scope to academics and stay out of teaching values. They are wrong.

I am not suggesting schools supersede family values, but I am advocating that starting with kindergarten or any new student enrollment, we connect with the family and engage them in the child’s education both through a personal relationship with the teacher or teachers and through projects that engage the family. Studies show that when the whole family is engaged in their child’s education, grades and academic interest go up.

I also advocate for putting the emphasis in primary grades on emotional development and mindfulness, helping children become more inclusive and engage in exercises to help them verbalize their feelings when acting out instead of disciplining. I advocate for a school system that addresses the whole child, not just the academic child.

I am proud of the Lewisville ISD for not arming our teachers per the recommendation of local law enforcement. I am excited that we are hiring 15 counselors that will be focus on mental and emotional well-being. I love the whole child program for parents that they run. They are doing the right things, but that’s not enough. We need to look to school systems inside and outside of the country for innovative ideas on how to prepare our children for life challenges. We need to implement best practices and engage parents in their children’s academic and emotional development.

Until we treat the whole child, until we accept that raising a child is a community responsibility that ultimately benefits everyone, we will continue the cycle of violence, blame, and hopeful change that may or may not be helpful.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s time for us and our community to embrace that African proverb.

Sandra Weinstein
Flower Mound, TX

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