Solving the School Violence Puzzle
By Carole Richards
Gun control and mental health issues continue to be part of national discussions about school violence and tragic deaths. I am not debating these topics. However, as I listen to the debate by our politicians, media, parents and educators, there is one topic that I don’t hear.
There are scared, lonely children and teens in our schools. These kids are different. I am not talking about race, religion, ethnicity or sex. These kids look and act differently: obese, large ears, unattractive, dress oddly, speak with accents. These kids can be socially inept and uncomfortable in the school environment, and often are bullied.
Over my many years consulting with families, I have met hundreds of these kids. For example, a teen with a few minor physical disabilities was angry at his school and classmates. His road to graduation with our company was rocky, but he proudly graduated.
How about a fifth grader that had been bullied in school? If he had remained in school, could have developed mental health issues by middle school or high school? Yes.
A ten-year-old was so angry at school that he could only attend our summer camp with an aide. Our camp director learned that he was called “slant eyes” in his ethnic school. He didn’t know how to react except with anger and violence. He was bright and learned from our camp director how to peacefully deal with teasing and taunting.
Solutions for these sad, angry, lonely kids aren’t simple. Teachers, therapists and parents need to listen to these kids. This means LISTEN to what they say and OBSERVE their body language. Then, as a team, work together to make these kids feel they are part of the school community. Teach them how to deal with difficult situations appropriately. Classmates of many loners are often afraid and need to learn acceptance, too.
An insurance company has a wonderful ad about helping others. It shows a high school where loner kids are invited to lunch with their peers. At our camp, we taught campers acceptance. While we did not include typical kids, our campers learned to accept their own disabilities by recognizing unique disabilities of others.
The movie “Wonder” teaches kindness between kids, as well as kindness between kids and adults. It teaches sensitivity to other’s feelings. If schools and families could teach the message of kindness, it could help.
Sadly, there is no magic pill for lonely and left out children and teens. We must begin to talk about them … and discover how to help them. If we observe differences, it’s a start. Think outside the box. Look for solutions instead of blame. We cannot blame the loners, their peers, educators, parents, or therapists. They are all part of the problem, but also part of the solution.
Understanding our lonely-scared-angry children is critical. Accepting and helping them become part of the school community may help solve the school violence problem.
Email me your ideas – How can we help these kids? Let’s start a dialogue!
Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, author of Richards Learning Systems® and a frequent guest on radio and TV. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.