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Diasporian News of Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Source: Eyiah, Joe Kingsley

Let’s Protect School Premises from the ‘Gun-Crazy’ People!

Making Our Schools Safe: Let’s Protect School Premises from the ‘Gun-Crazy’ People!

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview Middle School, Toronto-Canada

School premises are places for teaching and learning and for such activities to go on smoothly, students as well as their teachers must be kept safe at all times in our schools! However, over the past few years quite a number of violent incidences have occurred in our schools. These unfortunate incidences include school shooting!

A school shooting is an incident in which gun violence occurs at an educational institution. Such violence is often committed by a student or intruders upon the school campus. One of most prominent school shootings was that at the Columbine High School, near Littleton in Colorado-USA during which a teacher and twelve students were murdered in 1999. The worse so far happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown in Connecticut just a few weeks ago. In this school, twenty-six people were shot by a 20-year old young man. The victims included 20 students and 6 teachers. The students murdered here in cold blood were between the ages of six and seven. This school shooting has left the US in shock. In a daring and welcome move, the US President Barrack Obama has vowed to launch his second term in office by pushing Congress to keep ‘weapons of war’ off the streets, to curb the worst violence.

A startling revelation shows a time line of worldwide school and mass shootings from 1996 to present (see The school shootings ranged from the US and Canada in North America, Brazil and Argentine in South America to Finland, Germany, Sweden and Norway in Europe among others. In other parts of the world where gun control is in force school and mass shootings are barely heard of.

It was not surprising to me as a teacher in Toronto that the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, soon after the Newtown Elementary school shooting has announced funds to enforce school locks for all elementary schools in the Province to buttress school safety.

In an article on promoting school safety, Ronald Stephens suggests the following among others;

• Improving school designs: As school buildings are constructed and old ones are renovated, safety has become an essential element of their design. In new schools, office areas are now centrally located for easy accessibility from other locations in the building or campus. Hallways have convenient exits and are well lit. Dead-end hallways and staircase hideaways have been eliminated, and restrooms are located closer to administrators to prevent students from hanging out.

• Monitoring visitors carefully: Schools are becoming more assertive in screening visitors, requiring them to register when entering the building or campus and by employing security personnel. Schools can be both secure and friendly by requesting visitors to check in rather than report to the office. Registered visitors are given a pass or badge to display prominently to let staff and students know that they have been acknowledged by the administration. Staff and students are instructed to report people without proper identification to a school administrator. In addition, many schools now ask that parents give the names of adults who are allowed to pick up a child, and require those individuals to show identification to school personnel when signing a student out.

Such safety measures are appropriate for our schools. However, since most of the perpetrators of school shootings are identified as ‘troubled’ young people, more attention must be given to mental health to help families in our communities to deal with the unfortunate outcomes of stress and frustrations. I recommend that our communities join hands with the NGO, Across Boundaries, which provide services and support to people facing mental health problems. My recommendation is further strengthened by the report on December 24, this year, from Webster, New York State that the ex-con who gunned down two firefighters after luring them to his neighborhood by setting a car and a house ablaze was mentally disturbed!

Reports have it that, “the gunman, William Spengler, had served more than 17 years in prison for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer in 1980 at the house next to where Monday's attack happened. Spengler, 62, was paroled in 1998 and had led a quiet life since, authorities said. Convicted felons are not allowed to possess weapon.

“A friend of the gunman, Roger Vercruysse, said Spengler didn't seem violent but hated his sister. Vercruysse said Spengler ‘loved his mama to death’ and that he thinks his friend ‘went crazy’ after she died.”

There is interdependence of spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, social, economic, cultural, linguistic and broader environmental aspects of life which affect individuals with severe mental health problems/illness and or addiction. Let us help such individuals in whichever capacity we can to prevent them from becoming violent to make our streets and schools safer.