The Columbine shooting should have been a teachable moment for high schools across the nation
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New York, New York (PRWEB) April 10, 2009
On April 20, Americans will mourn the 10-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. With a decade of reflection, America's schools have done little to prevent a similar or worse tragedy from happening again, according to campus security expert and mental health lawyer Carolyn Reinach Wolf, Esq.
"Ten years after the Columbine shooting, most schools are still just as vulnerable to violence," said Ms. Wolf, who is also founder of Campus Behavioral Health Risk Consultants, LLC, a consulting firm that addresses mental health and security issues on school campuses. "Columbine should have woken the sleeping giant in America's school systems of how to identify and to handle 'at risk' students and prevent a similar attack from happening again. But it didn't, and students are just as vulnerable today as they were 10 years ago to another Columbine-style attack."
According to Ms. Wolf, since Columbine, we have learned:
1) We must be proactive in identifying and handling 'at risk' students,
2) A secure campus can reduce the number of deaths but not prevent them,
3) Over the past decade our schools have taken little action to prevent a repeat of Columbine, and
4) With the internet and students being exposed to violent video game, our schools are even more vulnerable.
"The Columbine shooting should have been a teachable moment for high schools across the nation," Wolf said. "In the months and years after Columbine, schools should have been creating a proactive system to identify 'at risk' students. Unfortunately, the majority of schools have adopted this "it won't happen to us" mentality, and ten years after the Columbine shooting, most are in the exact same spot: vulnerable to violence."
Ms. Wolf has traveled the country working mainly with institutions of higher education to create "Behavioral Intervention Teams," which are multidisciplinary teams generally overseen by Student Affairs or other Deans and consisting of school administrators, mental health experts, legal counsel and campus security, to serve as a centralized mechanism to properly address "red flag" or "at risk" students and act proactively toward prevention rather than a reactive or crisis mode.
Unfortunately, the majority of high school administrators have not adopted anything resembling a Behavioral Intervention Team, leaving them susceptible to school violence and crippling lawsuits from parents.
"From a legal perspective, if schools don't take a more aggressive approach to preventing another Columbine, they are leaving the door open for negligence and wrongful death lawsuits," said Wolf. "Parents have every right to sue a school if a shooting or suicide occurs and the school could have prevented it. That said, schools need to be exhausting every option."
According to Wolf, parents need to demand accountability and action from their schools in the areas of early intervention and prevention.
"Parents need to ask their schools what they are doing to identify and handle 'at risk' students. If schools are doing nothing, parents need to demand action," said Wolf. "If they don't, I have no doubt violence will continue and even escalate in schools across the country."
According to Wolf, "School violence cannot be completely prevented. But creating a Behavioral Intervention Team that can train teachers to identify 'red flag' students, discuss policies and protocols and then intervene is the first step toward preventing another Columbine-style attack."
About Carolyn Reinach Wolf
Carolyn Reinach Wolf is Senior Partner at Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Greenberg, Formato & Einiger, LLP - with the only mental health law practice in New York. She is also founder of Campus Behavioral Health Risk Consultants, LLC - a consulting firm that addresses mental health legal and safety issues on school campuses.