Senate Republicans recently introduced a bill—known as the RESPONSE (Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and Promoting Our Nation’s Safety Efforts) Act—containing provisions to reduce violence in an effort to prevent mass shootings. While we applaud the good intentions of this proposed national legislation, which would require digital monitoring programs at all public schools, mandating a one-size-fits-all program is not the way to go.
Mandating policy is usually counterproductive. It generates resistance when we need all of us working together to keep our kids safe. The best way forward is to allow district leaders to use their experience and their expertise to customize safety solutions that work for their communities.
Just as schools have moved away from standardized teaching to differentiated instruction and personalized learning, schools need the flexibility to craft a student safety response that is appropriate for their individual communities. Many districts have already invested in strategies to support the needs of their students, and we need to trust that they will choose solutions that make the most sense for their community.
Keeping kids safe in school is a goal that parents, educators, and the wider community all share. There have been many well-intentioned efforts to help schools short-circuit violent incidents before they happen. As more ideas surface, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of what we already know about strategies that can reduce the likelihood of confrontations at the school or the number of students thinking about suicide or self-harm.
Putting more counselors in schools is something we know works. The current recommendation from the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is 250 students per counselor, but the reality is more like 400 to one. Increasing the number of counselors and reducing the number of students they are responsible for allows them to have deeper relationships with students. When they form stronger connections with students, they can sometimes spot concerning behaviors before they get out of hand.
Incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) into the curriculum helps students better understand and manage their own emotions. It has also helped students learn and demonstrate empathy toward others, which has helped reduce bullying. Improving school culture so that students feel a sense of belonging is also a proven strategy. Kids want to belong to a community—they want to feel that someone cares about them. Teachers can be heroes by establishing authentic connections with their students.
We can also use technology to analyze what kids are thinking and talking about online. At Gaggle, we’ve been able to blend technology with human interaction to safeguard students’ welfare by reviewing their school email and documents. And we know that it works—we have the data to prove it