Sculpture by Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, a 17-year old student who died February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.

TBH (to be honest,) when Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) first saw this image circulating on Twitter, his mind went back to the 1950s nuclear safety drills in which schoolchildren were told to huddle under their desks if the Soviet Union was attacking the United States with nuclear bombs.

Fortunately, those doomsday scenarios never came to be. We can’t say the same about mass homicide events on our campuses that take place every year.

The sculpture depicts the terror on a child’s face, desperately seeking cover and wanting to live. There’s a strong feeling of despair about it as if we will never know how to stop the mayhem … as if an Oxford, Michigan tragedy is coming to a school near you.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have yet to experience a true lone wolf who gives no signs, makes no drawings of violence, posts no warnings on social media … that’s the lesson we fail to acknowledge even as America’s premier security agency, the one that’s tasked to protect the president, studied school violence and issued their report. The updated version can be found here.

The Secret Service, which has prevented even an attempted assassination of a president since 1981, realized that their threat assessment techniques had wide application outside of their protective services. In particular, threat assessment works in detecting threats of school violence and preventing them.

As long as the adults carry through–

There is no profile for a perpetrator of violence or a school target. All kinds of schools have been threatened by all kinds of demographic categories. There is no one or two to watch out for.

Often, but not always, the perpetrator has grievances involving bulllying, neglect, or abuse that have gone unaddressed. Social stressors gathered in a cloud as the shooters experienced turmoil in their relationships.

All behaved in concerning ways leading up to their atrocities. Most of the time, the behavior is noted and the person involved communicates their intentions.

We CAN prevent these tragedies.

Threat Assessment Teams empowered to act before the threats manifest are one way.

Preventing access to weapons is another. America has a gun problem. It’s less about the right to bear arms than it is the right to RESPONSIBLY bear arms. Trigger locks, gun safes, unloading the ammunition and locking it in a separate place, and keeping the keys away from children would not only help to prevent school homicide but also the many tragedies that we read about every year when children play with loaded firearms.

A well-regulated militia … yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what the military does with soldier or sailor weapons? They lock them up. The officers keep the keys and only when the weapons are needed are they issued. In a war zone, of course the enlisted keep their arms about them. But other places? Nope, no weapons.

In civilian life, if no one had a gun, no one would need a gun. Don’t tell me about criminals–they get their weapons from legal, careless owners. There’s a reason GOT’s city issues a gun reminder at 9 PM every night: Secure your weapon. Lock it up, Lock your car.

You mean, GOT, it can be as easy as walking down a city street and searching unlocked vehicles?

Yes. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will tell you if you don’t want to believe GOT.

We did our monthly Code Red drill. GOT had a senior TA (teaching assistant) sitting by himself in the testing classroom because the senior’s teacher was absent. Immediately, when the call came, GOT jumped up from his office and went to the room. In a rare lapse, GOT forgot to put his mask. on. Even for a drill, there have to be priorities.

GOT was glad to see the senior had retreated to the hard corner of the room. But he didn’t know what else was needed: turn out the lights, cover the window, etc. GOT took care of that and moved into the hard corner himself.

After all, art is art and expresses deep emotions and great ideas, but when you scroll up to that sculpture, don’t you really want to say that this is one piece where art should not be life?

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