By Kevin Thomas
School shootings are becoming more and more common. Lives are lost, tears are shed, and the media is left repeating the same phrases: that the event is a tragedy; it should have been avoided, thoughts and prayers, etc. Many media outlets blame the NRA, with some even suggesting the second amendment be abolished (which would cause more harm than good). It seems to me that a more obvious element is being ignored: mental health.
According to Atlanta-based neuropsychologist Lynda Boucagnani-Whitehead, PH.D, one solution would be to place “school-based teams where people could voice their concerns so they could start to offer services to help the student”. She believes increasing the number of on-campus psychologists and other professionals would make it easier to identify and defuse potential threats. As well, those professionals should be allowed to alert the proper authorities if they believe their patients present a potential danger to themselves or others.
I spoke with Rusty Morris, owner of One Target Gun Club in Peachtree City GA. An ex police officer, Morris stated that background checks completed through the NICS only denies the purchase of a firearm if the individual has been arrested or has a restraining order, not because of mental health concerns. When asked how he would resolve school shootings, Morris said, “Politicians don’t have the will to put the money toward stronger security. The reason you don’t see someone shooting up a senate building is because they have strong security”.
I believe that both Morris and Boucagnani-Whitehead are correct: School security should be increased, but those schools also need to start taking their students’ mental health as seriously as their test scores. Academic engagement is vital to the growth of children and young adults, but they won’t be able to focus on schoolwork if they’re afraid that their school, their community, and their lives could end at any minute. In my opinion, the way to stop school shootings is twofold: Increase security to deter potential shooters and place as much emphasis on their mental wellbeing as their academic.