Fowl Language by Brian Gordon (arcamax.com/thefunnies)
America is broken; our government, our institutions, our hearts — shattered with each passing news cycle. Recently on The PediaBlog, we counted 11 episodes of gun violence on school campuses in January alone. There have been so many mass shootings in this country, in fact, that you could be forgiven for not remembering that February also started with a bang after five students were shot at a Los Angeles middle school. We remember the names of the places — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and, now, Stoneman Douglas — but the names of the students and teachers who were victims, or their loved ones whose lives were crushed by senseless loss, not so much. We know what needs to happen to begin picking up the pieces of the shattered belief in our nation’s goodness (and the belief in the goodness of her citizens) — the enforcement/reinforcement of existing gun laws with new ones AND a ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles, “bump stocks” and other assorted lethal paraphernalia and ammunition AND mandatory universal background checks, registration, and training AND the building and maintaining of a mental health care system that provides access, treatment, and followup for any person who needs it AND a sober assessment of our gun-loving, violent society AND stronger safety education AND more (much more) research and communication between doctors and their patients about the risks of guns in the home. Metal detectors at the schoolhouse door might not be such a bad idea, either. But the key is this: Not one or some, but ALL of these things need to happen, all at the same time.
What choice do we now have? Will things be different this time around? After the last massacre, I was hopeful:
These are tough times for all of us right now. It seems like a barrage of very bad news from real events (not “fake news” coming from dubious sources, or scaremongering coming from the usual suspects) is coming at us every day, delivered directly to our inbox, newsfeed, newspaper, and nightly news report. We need to demonstrate to our children that we are not helpless in solving the major problems of our day. They need to learn their history and embrace the legacy into which they have been born: We have fallen, but we can get up. We are Americans — we’ve got this.
Do we? In a statement released one day after the Parkland, Florida madness, the American Academy of Pediatrics (and your pediatricians who are members) says it is not giving up:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for stronger state and federal gun laws that protect children, including a ban on assault weapons like the one used in yesterday’s school shooting. We also call for stronger background checks, solutions addressing firearm trafficking, and encouraging safe firearm storage. We will also continue to work to ensure that children and their families have access to appropriate mental health services, particularly to address the effects of exposure to violence.
“Although these mass shootings command our attention, our children remain at risk daily for suicide, homicide, and unintentional injury because of the current policy regarding access to guns in the United States. Gun violence is a public health threat to children, and one the American Academy of Pediatrics will continue to take on, in state capitals across the country and in the halls of Congress. Parents across the United States send their children to school every day, and hope and trust they will be safe. As long as children continue to be injured and killed by guns in this country, pediatricians will not rest in our pursuit to keep them safe.”
It is understandable if your school-age child was shaken after hearing about (or watching) events unfold in Parkland last week. The AAP reminds parents to reassure children regarding safety in school by speaking to them truthfully, calmly, and in a developmentally appropriate manner:
• Young children need brief simple information that should be balanced with reassurance. This includes informing children that their school and home are safe (once these are secure) and that adults are available to protect them. Young children often gauge how threatening or serious an event is by adult reactions. This is why, for example, parents are encouraged not to get overly emotional when saying goodbye on the first day of school. Young children respond well to basic assurance by adults and simple examples of school safety, like reminding them the exterior doors are locked.
• Upper elementary and early middle school children may be more vocal in asking questions about whether they are truly safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Parents can share the information they have about the school’s safety plan and any other relevant communication to ease their child’s mind.
• Upper middle school and high school students may have strong and varying opinions about causes of violence in school and society. Parents should stress the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following the school’s safety guidelines (e.g., not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to school safety made by students or community members, etc.).
The AAP has more on “Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events” here. We have also covered this topic previously on The PediaBlog here and here.