The tragic school shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, took six lives, including three children under 10. The fact that the shooter was a former student with a detailed plan, besides other shocking details, underscores the urgent need for change.
Instead of just expressing grief, let’s transform it into meaningful action to make our schools safe havens again. We must address this now, and we can utilize technology to help.
The call for transformation resonates deeply in the shadow of 377 school shootings since 1999. We need to start by seeking the “why” of the assailants to identify problems and implement potential solutions.
1. Mental Health Issues
School shooters often have underlying mental health issues. For instance, in the Columbine tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, it was determined that Dylan Klebold was depressed and Eric Harris was a calculated psychopath, with Harris likely leading. They killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 24 before taking their own lives. To improve school safety, we must prioritize early detection of mental health problems, equip educators and parents to intervene, and promote dialogue and therapy.
Students’ increasing use and access to technology can also be leveraged as a powerful tool to enhance their mental health through teletherapy and mobile apps, providing accessible support. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is also emerging as an effective tool in treating various mental health disorders, utilizing immersive environments to help individuals revisit and safely confront anxiety-inducing situations.
2. Inadequate Technological Utilization
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that although 73% of U.S. classrooms have inside locks, less than 15% of high schools and 2% of elementary schools use metal detectors for random checks. That’s a glaring security gap.
Advanced weapon detection systems, biometric scanners and AI-powered facial recognition can help. These aren’t just for spy movies—they can spot weapons and even sync with police databases for faster response times.
Moreover, as AI technology continues to evolve, its implementation in school security can offer enhanced protection. AI predictive analytics can analyze diverse data sources such as social media, student records and incident reports, helping identify and mitigate potential threats before they escalate.
3. Societal Violence And Glorification
Media channels, movies, video games and social media platforms often glorify violence—a phenomenon that can desensitize especially impressionable young minds to its real-life consequences. Schools can counter this by actively promoting media literacy and guiding students to critically analyze and understand media portrayals of violence. Teachers can also emphasize the stark contrast between fictional violence on screen and its real-life ramifications.
4. Bullying And Harassment
On May 24, 2022, a bullying victim, Salvador Ramos, killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Bullying is a systemic issue needing comprehensive solutions. Schools should provide anti-bullying strategies, maintain open communication and use role-playing to empower students to handle challenges. Many U.S. states are combating bullying by mandating schools to implement technology-based anonymous reporting systems, empowering students who might otherwise have fears or reservations about reporting to come forward.
5. Substance Abuse
Schools must prioritize anti-substance-abuse education, create safe spaces for addiction support and collaborate with local health agencies to ensure a secure learning environment. Technology can also play a pivotal role in addressing substance abuse among students. Innovations like CBT4CBT (computer-based training for cognitive behavioral therapy), developed by Kathleen Carroll and her team at Yale, equip individuals with cognitive and behavioral skills to regain control over drug or alcohol use.
Another great example is A-CHESS (Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System), a smartphone app developed by David Gustafson and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, that provides aftercare support for recovering alcohol addicts, reducing the risk of relapse.
6. Peer Pressure And The Desire For Notoriety
An acquaintance of the Uvalde shooter alleged that Ramos often asked people on the streaming platform Yubo “if they would want to be famous on the news.” In a society in which popularity and fame are often highly valued, some may feel driven to achieve notoriety through destructive means.
Educational programs should be developed in schools that address the consequences of fame-seeking violence. Students should be taught critical media literacy skills, helping them understand how the media can manipulate perceptions. Also, nurturing a healthy, inclusive school culture could help children feel connected.
7. Easy Access To Firearms
In the U.S., about 4.6 million children live in homes with easily accessible, loaded firearms. Stricter gun storage regulations, educational campaigns on safe storage and incentives for gun safes are crucial. Implementing “red flag” laws, thorough background checks and youth awareness programs can further reduce potential misuse and violence.
Smart guns have emerged as a promising technology with the potential to play a significant role in prevention. This technology incorporates various methods, such as thumb scans, passcodes or biometrics, to ensure that only authorized individuals can operate the weapon. In essence, it transforms stolen firearms or those accessed by children into temporarily harmless objects.
Although schools and communities bear the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of students, corporations can also play a vital role in enhancing school security. Their involvement can range from technological advancements to financial support, mentorship and community partnerships.
Here are three actionable ways corporations can contribute:
1. Funding And Donations: Corporations can financially support school security enhancement projects, such as infrastructure improvements, implementing modern security systems and investment in technology research.
2. Training And Workshops: Businesses with expertise in security, mental health or conflict resolution can offer training sessions or workshops for school staff, students and parents.
3. Collaborative Initiatives: Corporations can partner with schools to launch initiatives that promote a positive school culture, such as mentorship programs, internships and after-school activities.
By collaborating, schools and corporations can create an environment in which education thrives and fear turns to trust.News