When the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School started the #neveragain movement, I was optimistic that these well-spoken, passionate young people would be able to change the hearts and minds of lawmakers and other leaders to increase access to mental health care and pass common-sense gun laws.
I hoped that, as a nation, we would undertake a coordinated effort to make our precious young people and dedicated educators safe in our schools. Sadly, we are once again faced with another mass school shooting – this time in Santa Fe, Texas.
Some argue that we need to harden our schools by adding more armed police officers and installing bullet-proof glass and metal detectors. While those are reasonable solutions to protect students and teachers, they aren’t sufficient.
I believe, as do so many education leaders, that we can provide strength by softening our schools. What I mean by this is that we need to invest in school counselors and social workers so that troubled students and those with mental health challenges have the support they need.
We need to ensure that class sizes are small enough so that teachers can build supportive relationships and truly get to know their students.
We need to rethink discipline in schools so that the focus is on helping students learn how to solve their own conflicts by taking a restorative justice approach. Schools that use this approach report stronger school communities, reduced bullying, and fewer student conflicts.
This is the greatest nation in the world. We owe it to our children and to ourselves to stop school shootings. Softening our schools must be part of the solution. Our future depends on it.
I’m Laurie Elish-Piper, and that’s my perspective.