Identifying red flags prevents school violence – The Durango Herald

Recently, public discourse has begun to focus on mental health issues as the source of mass shootings. The science of prevention clarifies interventions and identifies red flags and important needs. These are clear solutions.

We must prevent violence when and where we can, using research-proven techniques. For example, while working as a school psychologist in Colorado, I ran a very successful violence prevention program called “I Can Solve Problems,” which taught children to use critical thinking skills in their relationships as well as in their academic endeavours. The program offered specific language and tools, and included lessons on empathy. One of the exercises focused on other people’s points of view with questions such as: what would make a firefighter angry? What would make a grandmother angry?

“I Can Problem Solve,” which focuses on how to think, not what to think, received a major grant from the Colorado Department of Education. We have implemented this program, which has been designated Exemplary by the United States Department of Justice because it has measurably improved not only the behavioral and social/emotional outcomes of students, but also academic achievement. We already have effective programs that lead to reduced violence; we must commit to implementing them.

And we must continue to invest in prevention.

We can intervene early by identifying red flags in public school systems and with combined efforts in our medical and religious communities. Red flags include broad declarations of hostility, leaking clues about plans, fixation on previous mass shootings, and high-conflict interpersonal relationships, which includes being bullied.

There is growing public pressure on schools to intervene in bullying, a clear trigger for many bullies. Colorado waived immunity for schools if they fail to exercise “reasonable care” to protect all students, faculty and staff from “reasonably foreseeable” acts. This specifically allows for damages “where the duty of care has been breached by a school district, charter school, or their employees.” The public insists that bullying should not be ignored or minimized.

Colorado provides all of us with an easy opportunity to notify authorities of any red flags we observe. Safe2Tell allows anonymous reports of “anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family or your community”. Safe2Tell forwards these reports to the school and/or law enforcement officials and verifies the response.

Top Republican donors last week joined other conservative Texans in signing an open letter endorsing the creation of red flag laws, expanding background checks and raising the gun purchase age to fire at 21. The Dallas Morning News. Polls consistently show that more than 90% of Americans support universal background checks. It is crucial that we improve the background check system to avoid fatal incidents.

But we cannot stop there. Gun safety and storage are more important than ever. We clearly understand that there is a copycat effect in these mass shootings.

Americans are beginning to recognize that we suffer from what John Pavlovitz, a writer, pastor, and activist in Wake Forest, North Carolina, calls the “cruelty disease” to include relentless bad news, predatory behavior, and attacks on decency. We have a cultural fascination with sociopaths and deviant behavior, as evidenced by a host of television shows. This paved the way for greatly increased predation.

By giving our attention to sociopaths, we must recognize that we are rewarding them and their exploitative behavior.

We need to understand that to increase everyone’s freedom, we need to reduce fear and distrust in daily interactions. We must prevent violence. It starts at school with the science of prevention and all the solutions it holds.

Laurie Roberts is a Nationally Licensed School Psychologist living in Bayfield. To contact Safe2Tell, call 1-877-542-safe.

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