Now before you flood me with hate emails or ask me to speak at an NRA convention, allow me to clarify. We need to arm our educators with tools and technology that can protect both them and the students and help prevent violence in schools. I know I’m not alone when I say that I wept on May 24th as I heard about the tragedy in Uvalde. When I first saw the headline I was sitting in my classroom with my 8th grade Language Arts class. It was a Tuesday afternoon and the students were exceptionally chatty. They had been mentally checked out for a couple of weeks already. Eighth grade graduation was just two weeks away and though their bodies were still in my classroom, their minds were on high school and the excitement of the bright new world that loomed just around the corner. I remember looking at them and trying not to get emotional. My heart ached for the teachers and families of Robb Elementary, and as I thought of the horrors they were experiencing my next thoughts were what most educators usually think when they hear of another shooting… How would I protect my students? What would I do?
I’ve done the training. I’ve had foam balls shot at me. I’ve built barricades out of desks. I’ve been taught to tie doorknobs with a belt or a tie. I’ve been trained to jump out windows. At one school where I taught, the windows didn’t open, so I was told to buy a hammer to break the glass to get students to safety if needed. I always took comfort in knowing that I taught teenagers. They could help in the event of chaos, but what about the teachers who answer the amazing call of teaching our little ones? How would they do it?
The reality is that the last decade has seen a 304% increase in school shootings around the United States. Uvalde’s pain has once again pushed school safety to the forefront of administrators’, teachers’, and parents’ minds. But as students across the country head back to the classroom and the day to day routines slip into place, it can be easy for safety plans to unintentionally take a back seat to lesson plans and standards. Knowing the reality of how schools operate, I will be the first to tell you our nation’s teachers absolutely need to be armed. The best way to protect our schools, the first step really, is with prevention.
Prevention Begins with Observation
To understand how to prevent violence in schools, it’s important to first be able to identify the life-saving warning signs that can be prevalent in a learner. Some may seem obvious; if a student is making a direct threat to themselves or others, or even stating that they have plans to carry out violence then clearly authorities need to be contacted and swift intervention is needed. Meanwhile other symptoms can be much more subtle, such as a teen quietly withdrawing from friends, family, activities and even social media. Though there are many more signs, and exhibiting one or two of them does not mean violence is imminent, it is worth noting that 93% of school shooters planned their attack in advance. In fact, nearly all mass shooters (school or otherwise) shared alarming messages or images before their assault. Sadly, in 4 out of 5 school shootings, other people had prior knowledge of the attacker’s plan but were unwilling to take the steps to report it.
It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback and question when tragedy strikes. If the wrestling coach had noticed that Timmy had been more argumentative at practice, and the Algebra teacher had seen his grades slipping, and the lunchroom monitor noticed he started eating alone, then why didn’t anyone try to intervene? The answer is quite simple to anyone who’s ever worked in the education field. There’s never enough time. It’s not that those individuals didn’t care. It’s that they didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle to see the whole picture. That’s where this cutting edge technology comes into play.
Information Leads to Early Intervention
MIMI (Merging Information into Meaningful Insights) is a platform that taps into everyday data and analyzes it to reveal behavioral and mental health trends in students to allow for early intervention. Using decades of academic research MIMI creates predictive analytics that are built on a foundation of peer-reviewed scientific research. So to put it simply, MIMI takes all the information that is entered such as attendance, grades, mood, and more, and displays it on a dashboard for easy viewing. When each of these data sets are broken down and compared amongst one another, it reveals patterns in students’ behaviors allowing for informed action when needed. This information is available to all the stakeholders (district, teachers, school nurse, parents, and students) in their own unique dashboards. MIMI could prevent the worst case scenario of mass violence. It could help prevent suicide, or catch the symptoms of depression at early onset, it could even help clue parents and educators in on a possible learning disability, or if a student is being bullied.
Beyond the analytics that speak for themselves, this is a way to get all parties involved communicating. As a former teacher, I can tell you that I rarely spoke to any of my students’ coaches, and as a parent I can also tell you that I always had the best of intentions to be in regular contact with my childrens’ teachers. The reality is that sometimes life gets in the way and that’s when small details, that can add up to big things, can too easily slip through the cracks.
If you work in education you might find yourself asking, but what about the fact that there’s never enough time? I know that’s the first thing I thought when I learned about MIMI. The answer is, it’s so efficient that it integrates with existing data sources (attendance, grades, school nurse, etc.) and then with the single tap of a button allows teachers, coaches, or even parents to track a mood or behavior change. Fortunately, more often than not, it won’t always be an extreme. Timmy may be struggling because his parents are going through a divorce, but MIMI can help everyone be aware of the situation and most importantly help Timmy.
While technology is not the end-all, be-all solution for solving the epidemic of violence in schools, it is a powerful tool to have in the arsenal of prevention. It is the tool our educators, parents, and students need to be armed with to help combat the issue. MIMI gets everyone talking together and where there is clear and open communication, chaos will not thrive.
We’re here to be the solution to keep our communities and schools safe because right now matters most. Contact Status Solutions for a free assessment and to learn more about MIMI.
About the Author
Laura Hartman is a former English teacher. Currently she is a Marketing Specialist for Status Solutions in Westerville, Ohio, where she calls upon her years of experience in the classroom to aid the company’s mission of protecting the vulnerable and preventing violence in schools.