Swift Action Needed To Eradicate School Shootings
On Valentine’s Day, our country witnessed the 18th shooting massacre in an American public school since the beginning of 2018. Afterwards, throughout the evening, our country also witnessed what has become the customary “wringing of hands” lamentation by school officials, newscasters, and politicians! Were there warning signs that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was capable or even inclined to perpetrate such atrocities? Did anyone who knew Nikolas take seriously his recent social media posts and alert authorities that he was planning to become “a professional shooter?”
I submit that although multiple protests have arisen about the US gun laws which permit these types of abominations to occur, Congress will be slow to sponsor substantive talks to effect substantial change. I also posit that very few will heed a key motivating force behind Nikolas Cruz’s heinous actions—he had been bullied at Stoneman Douglas before he was expelled from the school altogether and the shooting was his way of exacting revenge.
I believe that US society no longer has the luxury of donning a “woe is we” attitude. Action to ameliorate the probability of additional school shootings must be taken swiftly and effectively. One approach that I described in The January/February 2018 issue of Education Update is the already existing electronic school safety platform, Bridg-it, [which is] currently being used in districts in New York City, Long Island, Southern California, and Montana. Created by NYC-based CEO Jeffrey Ervine and his expert team of educators and technologists, Bridg-it’s features include three components which school authorities can use to benefit their school communities comprehensively and conclusively:
1. An APP for the Smartphone or any web-enabled device which students without personal recourse can use to make confidential reports to their school authorities that they are being bullied relentlessly;
2. An electronic library of over 2000 videos, books, articles, lesson plans, and student assignments to serve as “teachable moments” to inculcate restorative justice and practice into the hearts and minds of bullies and victims alike; and
3. An electronic database that analyzes and graphically depicts in real time the specific trends of students’ bullying and other at-risk behaviors on a continual and consistent basis to alert their school administrators to highly potential disrupters in their school communities.
Bridg-it has already proven to be an efficient and effective technology tool in one Brooklyn public middle school of 1400 diverse students. According to IS 228 Principal Dominick D’Angelo, the implementation of Bridg-it’s three-pronged system has been instrumental in reducing the number of school incidents by 75% over a three-year period.
Most importantly, Bridg-it can help facilitate the prevention of escalated school incidents by:
1. Giving students who are bullied relentlessly a voice and recourse through 24/7 access to alert their school authorities and reduce students’ feelings of isolation, humiliation and helplessness that accompany being bullied;
2. Providing materials from its Resource Center Library to educate bullies, victims, their teachers, classmates, and parents on restorative strategies to curtail the negativity and toxicity of their behaviors and restore the emotional positivity of their school communities; and
3. Providing real-time quantitative and qualitative data about student outliers who show consistent threatening and violent behavior toward their classmates and other members of their communities, the better to identify highly potential disrupters of their school environments.
Immediate gun law reform notwithstanding, an approach such as Bridg-it represents a viable and available game-changer that Americans are clamoring for at this crucial time. As a society, we can ill afford not to embrace all that Bridg-it provides to keep our children safe and productive in their now too often menaced learning environments. For the sake of our K–12 schoolchildren and for us all, the time to implement Bridg-it is NOW! #
Dr. Michael C. Gillespie is Chief Academic Officer of Bridg-it, LLC. He is a retired dean of Academic Affairs at the Borough of Manhattan Community College/The City University of New York. For more information about Bridg-it, go to bridgit.com.