BATH — School shootings have made painfully clear that our schools are no longer sanctuaries for children.

And we have made the situation much worse by blindly applying an “outside” solution to what is clearly an “inside” problem.

The shooter is almost always an angry, despondent or outcast male student. And about 80 percent of the time, according to the Secret Service, he’ll even say or do something that indicates the possibility of such violent behavior.

So an “inside” solution is really needed, making us more aware of the potential shooter’s distressed feelings and making him feel he is part of a supportive school community.

Balance that against the present “outside” approach: lockdown drills, extra school cops, teachers with guns, all of which significantly contribute to student fear and further stroke the ego of a potential shooter, even helping him recognize the best plan he needs to shoot up the school.

So we need the courage and determination to address this differently. We can transform our schools from an extension of national gun violence into sanctuaries concerned with children and their growth. Such schools would naturally become family-type communities that reject bullying and unkindness, two behaviors that lead to school shootings.

The key to such an effort is uniting family and school. The school benefits from adding parents, the primary teachers of character. Families benefit by being part of the school community, on the same page as their children. Students benefit by becoming supporters of each other, like siblings who want to see peer success and are willing to hold standards high. In short, home and school become one community, in partnership to bring out the best in the student.

From the outset of this partnership, the school accepts the family as an integral part of its educational experience, and parents accept the school as an integral part of its family experience.

What would this look like?

One approach would be to have four or five “community” sessions a year; homeroom teachers would ask mixed-grade students about their family life, while parents would ask children about their classes and school life. In more delicate situations, the interchanges could be done privately. Homeroom teachers and parents would then share information with each other, always in service to the students’ growth and best interests.

The mixed-grade groupings would encourage older students to help younger ones. Eventually, a mutual trust will develop, encouraging all members to communicate like a large family. These sessions would deepen relationships among teachers, parents and students, building a we’re-in-this-together culture whose mission is student success.

The tremendous bonus of this true home-school partnership is the empowerment of children/students. They see their words and actions having a direct positive result in both their home and school. Children more deeply want to support each other, not put each other down. But the present culture does not encourage their deeper selves.

Of course, not all shared information would be accurate or useful. But like any good effort, what does not work gets discarded, and participants learn as they go.

This program does not advocate turning education upside-down. It urges treating students and parents – and teachers – with far more respect than we presently do.

Horace Mann, considered the father of our public school system, once said, “A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron.”

Having coached, taught and counseled kids for 68 years, I learned at their deepest level, kids want to accomplish something with their lives. But the present educational system puts them on the defensive, pushing them out into the world without first helping them figure out who they are, or preparing them to fully express their true best in life.

Students are all unique; adults need to help them become confident in their uniqueness and challenge them to believe in their best. To do that effectively, school and family must work together. This partnership – working in three Hyde public charter schools and one Hyde boarding school – ultimately produces solid graduates, individuals and citizens.

Several public school systems have successfully developed this family-type culture with only parent support.

On a national scale, this partnership can help stop school shootings and develop a truly great America.


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