OP-ED: School violence must stop and we can do it

OP-ED: School violence must stop and we can do it

February 19, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — In the wake of the Parkland, FL school shootings coming on the heels of so many others in recent years, former North Carolina Superior Court Judge Robert Burroughs submitted the following OP-ED piece for our readers’ consideration:


Dear Editor:

Over the past few years, the violence in schools and the work place have continued to rise.  When one of these events takes place the public becomes reactive instead of proactive.  This discussion will focus on the school setting, but it can also be applied to the work place.

In the Parkland case, the media reported that when the students were told the identity of the alleged shooter they said “Oh, yeah”.  The media also reported some of the students identified the shooter before the authorities did. They knew him by reputation.  That would indicate some of the students knew he was dangerous.  The student mentality of not “ratting out” a classmate has got to stop.

The students are the first line of defense.  They, more than anyone else, know what is going on in their school and other schools in the community.  They have an intelligence network that is beyond anything we can imagine.  Social media is the common link to the entire student population.  Through social media they can keep up with events thousands of miles away in other states.  The first obstacle to overcome is the idea of “ratting out” a classmate.  I imagine there are students in Florida tonight saying, “what if.” The student must have a fool proof way of sending anonymous alerts to the proper authority. This could be done by cell phone, social media or other methods.  The students are the early warning radar.

The parents are the second line of defense.  They must know the first and last name of their children’s friend(s).  Don’t laugh at this.  Such identity anonymity exists in many homes today. The parents must have the school safety talk with their children.  Supposedly, they have talked about drugs, alcohol, safe driving and sex.  Simply add school safety to the list.  School safety talks ought to occur on a regular basis, even weekly.  Parents know the approach to use in doing this.  Do not be judgmental. Just ask for information’s sake.  The parents must have a foolproof way of sending anonymous alerts to the proper authority.

They are the ones who must run toward the gunfire while others are allowed to run away.

The school staff is the third line of defense.  They see the students on a daily basis and, in some instances, know more about the socialization of the students than the parents.  The teachers and staff know who the troublemakers are and can spot them in a minute. If you walked into a school and asked the teachers and staff to name the troublemakers you would end up with a short list with the same names.  Teachers and staff are excellent judges of people.  Unfortunately they have been worn down by administrative rules and the never-ending quest for political correctness.  The teachers, more than any other group, must have an absolutely anonymous and foolproof method for sending alerts to the proper authority.

Law enforcement is in the mix from beginning to end.  They are the pointed end of the spear.  They are the ones who must run toward the gunfire while others are allowed to run away.  They must set up social media algorithms and other search engines that will allow them to search the social media for potential trouble.  It is done today to spot pedophiles, why not use the same technology to spot dangerous people in schools or the work place?

Society as a whole must step up. Many of us have aged out of the school program.  Nevertheless we have a civic obligation to look after the community’s children and the work force.  We cannot sit around and become complacent and say, “Let Bob do it. I don’t want to get involved.”  The public, too, must have a foolproof, anonymous way to alert the proper authority to potentially dangerous situations.

Our children are our most precious resource.  How do we know what society has lost because of the deaths of those students and teachers in Florida?

What happens when a tip comes in?  The proper authority (whoever it turns out to be) makes a home visit.  They talk to the parent(s) / guardian(s) and the student.  Based on the conversation, they may ask to look at the weapons in the home and how they are stored. They may want to know how the student can gain access to the weapons. They may see enough to require the weapons be stored in a secure device.  They may see enough to recommend a mental health referral. The authority should make available approved storage devices at minimal cost.  The authority will then make periodic, unannounced, home visits.

Your first reaction to this article may be it is too draconian.  Maybe so, but ask the grieving parents and widows in Florida if they feel this would be too burdensome and I think they would say “NO.”  Our children are our most precious natural resource.  How do we know what our society has lost because of the deaths of the students and teachers in Florida?  Would one of them have been the scientist to cure an illness or develop a treatment to alleviate pain, or would one have gone into the military and worked to keep America safe? Would one of the teachers continued to be an inspiration to students now and in the future? We will never know what we as a nation lost.

I can tell you the families of the dead lost their most precious possession in their child or spouse.  This has got to stop and we have the ability to stop it. Let’s quit talking and start doing.

Respectfully, Bob Burroughs

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