When many of us were growing up, we did not fear that our lives would be at stake in the hallways and classrooms at public schools. Jealousies over boyfriends and girlfriends occasionally broke into fights, but the worst thing that could happen was a student requiring medical attention. Society has changed over the past 20 years. As parents, we have good reason to fear that our children will not survive another day, even in those smaller towns considered safe. A mentally ill adult—or bullied or alienated student—might burst on to a campus with a gun to kill students and teachers.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a national organization that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched, is keeping a tab on gun violence. The organization announced in June 2014 that 74 school shootings have occurred in the 18 months that followed the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. The massacre at Sandy Hook sparked a national debate on gun violence, bringing to the forefront issues we never had to think about. Therefore, we, as parents, can take action on a local level to reduce the likelihood of more tragedies involving guns at our schools by taking the following steps:
- Find out what kind of security measures are in place in the schools that our children attend.
- Meet with mental health professionals to ensure that they will do a better job of monitoring their charges.
- If we own guns at home, make sure they are unloaded, locked and out of reach of our children.
Various groups have called for other measures to make schools safer. The American Psychological Association came up with several proposals to improve mental health that included enhancing access to student mental health services and programs that reduce bullying, disruption and violence, including against teachers.
We want our schools to be safer without creating an environment like a prison. We want to see our children grow up without fear of being gunned down at school, or anywhere else. In the aftermath of another Newtown tragedy that affects your own family, a lawsuit may not always be the first thing on your mind. It will not bring back your children. However, you can use the legal system to hold school officials, mental health practitioners and even the firearms industry accountable by enlisting in proper legal counsel where you need it the most.