Did you ever notice that when an education problem needs to be solved, non-educators are hard at work deciding what is “best for us”?
Except in this case, they are probably right. In the waning flurry of stories on the school shooting in Oregon, we are finally getting around to some discussion of what FEMA and the Department of Education call “the most useful tool a school can develop” – threat assessment management – which is rarely ever done in schools. A recent article in Mother Jones gives us an inadvertent glimpse into one of the reasons why.
The article examines the process and advantages of threat assessment, but what is conspicuous by its absence is the lack of any involvement, interviews, or discussion of educators in this article that deals with school shooters and other mass murderers. Threat assessment is discussed as a means by which “law enforcement and mental health professionals” can prevent violence. Really? Don’t you need me as an educator to notice and report behaviors of concern or are law enforcement and mental health professionals going to observe every kid in every class in every school?
This omission is endemic of a mentality, unintentional or otherwise, that preventing and responding to school violence is something that the “grown ups” will discuss while patting educators on the head and sending us off to the kids' table while they decide what to do. Let me be clear, this isn’t a knock on law enforcement or mental health professionals alone, we as educators have abdicated our authority and been ok with being denied a seat at the school safety table. Yet it is educators and our students who are being damaged, injured, killed, and criticized when violence occurs.
As educators we need to advocate – and yes demand – an educational perspective on school violence and school safety.
Media coverage, political discussion, policy making, crisis planning and response decisions should all prominently feature educators’ voices.