The Bullying – School Shooter Connection and What We Can Do About It

Third in this series of guest posts by ex-detective, Dave Williams, an expert on preventing school shootings, is today’s post about the connection between bullying and school shootings.
Click to read the other posts in the series:
Making Schools Safer One Dad at a Time
5 Strategies to Prevent School Shootings
Check back next week for Dave’s post on Teaching Kids How to Handle a Police Encounter

I grew up in Newtown, CT and I met Dave at a writer’s retreat in New Mexico (he’s now writing fiction) where this ex-detective and I talked a lot about his work and research on preventing school shootings. His book, Textbooks Not Targets: How to Prevent School Shootings in Your Community is available now for only .99 – he want to get this information out there. We can’t wait around for anyone else to take action, get one and pass it along to your parent-teacher groups, your school superintendent and administrators and read his post below on dad volunteerism at schools. Thanks for being on Mother’s Circle, Dave.

The Bullying – School Shooter Connection |
The evidence is clear: bullying and school shootings are attached at the hip. Children and adolescents pushed to the brink of rage act out, and sometimes that acting out includes bringing firearms on campus. If we want to reduce or eliminate murders on campus, we’ve got to address the bully element. Fortunately, several programs have shown a history of being effective in preventing bullying and violence.

In a previous article I spoke about the importance of parental involvement in schools as a way to increase morale and productivity, as well as playing a part in making schools safer. This holds true with anti-bullying programs, which tend to be more successful when a significant percentage of parents are involved at a school. In other words, bullying and its negative consequences tend to diminish when parents are more involved in schools and participate in anti-bullying initiatives.

Unfortunately, some schools find it challenging to engage parents. School counselors have reported that it is often the parents of the most at-risk students who seem to be the most resistant to be involved in anti-bullying measures. This may be due in part to some level of denial that issues such as bullying and all its associated problems could exist in their homes. It would certainly be nice if all parents spent time volunteering at their children’s schools, but we know from experience some families are simply unable or unwilling to volunteer.

Regardless, any program being considered by a school district is best served if parent groups are included in the review and discussion.

Parents must be made aware that this problem is a systemic one, and that it is highly likely their child has bullied, been bullied, or witnessed bullying.

Such a message may bring home the critical importance of all stakeholders being and staying involved. The goal parents, school personnel, and students should strive for is a non-bullying environment in which all concerned can learn and grow safely.

To that end, Dr. Dan Olweus of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program provides four fundamental principles for a non-bullying environment:

  • Warmth, positive interest, and involvement from adults
  • Firm limits as to unacceptable behavior (which are clearly communicated to students and parents)
  • Consistent application of non-hostile, non-physical sanctions when there are violations
  • Good role modeling by the adults involved (at school AND home)

These principles are utilized consistently in successful programs. Schools and parent groups interested in fostering such an environment should bear these principles in mind during their research, planning and implementation phases. Doing so provides a solid foundation upon which to build an effective anti-bullying model for which any school could be proud.

Space here doesn’t allow me to elaborate on each, but here’s a list of programs that have proven effective to get you started. I’d love to hear about other programs you’ve found successful.

  • Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers
  • Resolving Conflicts Creatively
  • Student Mediated Conflict Resolution Program
  • The Good Behavior Game
  • The Family and Schools Together Program
  • Second Step Program
  • Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
  • Five Track Method

What is consistently clear is that bullying is a fundamental reason for the rage associated with most school shooting incidents and that failure to undertake preventive measures can have dire consequences. What is equally clear is that bullying can be minimized or even prevented with reasonable effort, training, structure, and communication.

Think of bullying as if it is a symptom like chest pain. Treated, we can lower cholesterol levels, lose some weight, eat healthier, and exercise to better insure a long and healthy life. Ignore the symptoms, however, and at some point you’re looking at a full-blown cardiac event—only in this case the metaphor symbolizes children shooting and killing other children.

Thus, we should consider school shootings as largely preventable. Two of the best medicines known to foster such prevention include anti-bullying programs and parental involvement. I submit that it’s time for every school throughout this country and beyond to take its medicine.

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