District Administration June 2018 - 14

OnTopic

Matthew Mayer
By Tim Goral

A rational approach to
ending gun violence
Don't 'harden' schools. Make them softer,
by improving social and emotional health

After the shootings at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School in
Florida, Matthew Mayer and Shane
Jimerson knew they had some work to
do. Mayer, from the Rutgers Graduate
School of Education, and Jimerson,
from the University of California,
Santa Barbara, both specialize in
studying school violence. "In 2006,
there were several school shootings, and
we put out a position statement," says
Mayer. "But this time we felt it was
more important to take an actionoriented approach." Nearly two weeks
later-with help from some of the
leading experts in the field-the two
shaped a detailed, eight-point "Call for
Action To Prevent Gun Violence In The
United States of America" (DAmag
.me/pgv). Among other things, the
document calls for improving mental
health and modifying laws about
sharing information. More than 300
universities, several large school districts,
and well over 4,000 individual experts
have signed on to support this document
in the weeks since.

DAmag.me/end

14 June 2018

Your Call for Action differs from what
pundits and lawmakers have offered.
You're not advocating arming teachers or putting buckets of rocks in the
classroom.
No, nothing in that direction. One of the
ideas here is that we have to start working
together on comprehensive approaches to
change, and it will take time.
Some of this has to do with access to
guns, and there are some common sense
things that we talk about, such as making
sure that people who are known to be
dangerous and unstable do not have access to guns. That's a no-brainer. In terms
of universal background checks, we all
know there are so many loopholes, such
as gun shows and other things, where
people who really shouldn't have access to
guns can get them.
We're not going to magically turn this
situation around because we have close to
300 million firearms in this country, but
you have to start somewhere.
So where do we start?
We can work on a lot of these issues at
the same time. For example, making sure
every school community has a threat assessment committee that also works on
getting help to the young people who
need it. For example, if you look at the
after-the-fact analysis of what happened
at Parkland, we know that the educational system, the criminal justice system and
the mental health system all had vitally
important information about that kid,
but there was no mechanism where they

would sit down in the same place and
share this information.
In your Call to Action you talk about
removing legal barriers to sharing information. What are those barriers?
The primary barriers are HIPAA and
FERPA privacy acts. Schools are not allowed to release information to other
parties unless there's a signed permission
form from the parents. But changing that
won't be easy, because you have to work
out the parameters so this information
doesn't get abused.
The main idea is, you have a community-based team dealing with threat
assessment-that would typically include
education, law enforcement and mental
health. The team needs access immediately to relevant information in cases
where there's a plausible threat. If we can
work on relaxing parts of the HIPAA and
FERPA laws in certain circumstances,
these threat assessment teams can have access to critical information.
There's a balance there between protecting individual rights and the larger
public, but it's something we know we
have to work on. You don't want to find
out after the shooting what you needed to
know a week before.
You call for adequate staffing of school
psychologists, social workers and counselors. But many districts, and even
counselors, say there's simply no money
for that. Some counselors even work at
several schools in a district, spending
District Administration


http://DAmag.me/pgv http://DAmag.me/pgv http://www.DAmag.me/end

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration June 2018

District Administration June 2018 - 1
District Administration June 2018 - Cover1
District Administration June 2018 - Cover2
District Administration June 2018 - 1
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