Parents First Line of Defense Against Next School Shooting

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Uniquely Qualified Mental Health Professional, Reevah Simon LCSW, Makes Her Case For Parents First Line of Defense Against Next School Shooting

There have been 44 school shootings since Newtown. “An estimated 90 percent of school districts have tightened security since Newtown -- installing metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and bullet-proof glass. Schools now routinely have lockdown drills reminiscent of Cold War air raid drills” -- Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/13/at-least-44-school-sho). In short schools are doing everything they can to prevent future school shootings. Impassioned calls to Congress to take action to prevent more gun violence have fallen on ears sensitive only to the NRA and their votes.

I would like to focus our attention on the primary preventive factor of school shootings—the first line of defense—the family. Although these shootings appear to strangers and acquaintances as coming out of the blue, there have been unnoticed signs and warnings well before the tragedy took place. Teens who don’t talk or talk in monosyllables and appear very secretive; who become irritated or downright angry when a parent pursues questions trying to penetrate the cloud of impermeability surrounding their teen.

Teens who isolate themselves at home; who live in their room or in the garage; who refuse entrance to their room; who deny parents the right to inspect their belongings; who act as hostile boarders with no connection to the family; who spend hours on the computer in their room; who have few friends; whose grades generally have gone down even though they may have a previously excellent academic history. In short teens who are withdrawn strangers to their family; who, do not seem “normally” attached.

One father said recently after a violent incident involving his son, “We ate dinner together every night.” True, this is a good first step for keeping your teen in the family orbit. However, beyond physically sitting together every evening, what is the conversation about? Is there conversation? Is there an easy give and take? Does your teen exhibit interest in family members? Interest in his own activities or life? Does he share openly his successes and failures? The small kind we all experience every day.

Have you examined his room? Yes, parents have a right to search their children’s room and belongings if not a duty to make sure you know what’s going on. Not because parents are nosey butt-ins but because they love their child and need to know that everything is going as it should; that their child is on the right path and not being self-destructive. As parents you have a right and a duty to meet all your teen’s friends and their parents. You have a right and a duty to always know where your teen is and what he’s doing. You have a right and a duty to know what the homework assignments are, to check them, to see test results, to be in touch with teachers, and other adults who come in contact with your teen.

In short, a parent who knows where his child is, what he’s doing, and who he’s with will generally not find themselves surprised/horrified to find that his child is the next shooter in a school tragedy. And when homes are examined looking for clues, you will not find, to your shock, an arsenal of weapons hidden under your teen’s bed.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Reevah Simon has worked for the Los Angeles County Departments for Health Services and Mental Health for 22 years, and worked on the psychiatric services for children, adolescent, and adult in- and outpatients for the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center Psychiatric Hospital. She was Acting Program Head for the County Department of Mental Health Child and Adolescent Outpatient, and worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District to supervise, train, and run parenting groups for the last 12 years. Reevah Simon has also been in private practice for 25 years, and is the author of Back To Basics Parenting (tm) Training Manual.

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Martin Welles
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