Following the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, there’s been a significant public outcry by politicians and civilians alike to reevaluate the way we approach school safety. While the sentiment is consistent across the board, the approaches vary drastically. Increasing security and arming teachers are both ideas that have become popular in select circles, but prior implementations have shown these solutions to be faulty. Others propose investing in mental health resources and social-emotional learning for students as a means to curb school shootings. Regardless of the resolution, it’s clear that we need to act, and we need to act fast.
Kokomo24/7® got its start working to improve the safety and health of schools, providing educators with the resources to attend to the wellbeing of their students. We've worked with numerous educational institutions to create safe environments by giving students and faculty an outlet to voice their concerns and allowing administrators to monitor their students and document their activity throughout their academic careers. We've appreciated the opportunity to permit students to prosper in a safe environment and are deeply saddened by the recent tragedies that we've witnessed in our schools and communities.
The urgency and complexity involved in addressing school shootings make overcoming them a difficult challenge to undertake. Despite this difficulty, comparable countries have avoided or significantly reduced their shootings. According to data from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in 2019 Canada had 0.47 deaths due to gun violence per 100,000 people, the UK had 0.04, and the US had 3.96. Both Canada and the UK have particularly strict gun laws, especially when compared to the US. In addition to the more lax approach to gun legislation, the US has far more guns in relation to its population than any other country. The Small Arms Survey conducted a study that found that the US has 120.5 firearms per 100 residents. The next largest amount is Yemen with less than half that amount.
The incident in Uvalde isn’t even the latest mass shooting to occur in the states. In the days following the tragedy on May 24th, there have been at least 15 mass shootings according to an article from the Washington Post. This count doesn’t include the 10 people who were killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York on May 14th or the 4 people who were killed in a medical building in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1st. Gun violence has grown to impact every sector of American life.
The increased attention school safety has received has led to an impassioned debate over the best approach to resolving the issue. While many have called for increased security in schools, evidence suggests that the method isn’t effective at reducing gun violence in schools. Speaking to the New York Times, New Mexico State University public health professor Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani said, “These security measures are not effective, and they are not catching up to the ease of access with which people are acquiring guns”. This theory played out in the Uvalde shooting where multiple police officers weren’t capable of stopping the shooting. As a part of an initiative to prevent gun violence in schools, local SWAT officers learned the layout of the building in 2020. At the same time, Uvalde schools doubled their security budget.
One approach that has appeared to produce positive results is monitoring students' mental health and online activity. In an article by FiveThirtyEight, Dr. Mary Ellen O’Toole explained that in her research she found potential shooters typically communicate their plans to a friend, giving law enforcement an opportunity to intervene. In the wake of Parkland, four separate perpetrators were stopped because someone they told their plans to told the police. The article went on to explain that most of the experts they spoke to encouraged schools to pursue systems that can identify problematic behaviors that may escalate to dangerous behavior. Recognizing and highlighting areas of concern can help teachers and mental health professionals intervene before a worry becomes a threat.
The mission behind starting Kokomo24/7® in 2018 was to help provide schools, workplaces, and communities with the resources to create a safer environment. Through the dedication and hard work of so many administrators, teachers, and mental health professionals, we've been able to do that for well over 600,000 students across the country. We cherish the opportunity we've been given to collaborate with numerous schools across the country to improve their safety. Our Anonymous Reporting solution allows students, teachers, and other faculty members to report concerning behavior to an administrator that can act on the report. Our Case Management solution has been used by the second-largest school district in the country, LAUSD, (among other school districts) to log issues with students from incidents of bullying to mental health episodes, allowing faculty to be aware of potential issues and address them. It breaks our hearts to see schools and communities experiencing such immense tragedy, and we hope to assist in reaching an end to the ongoing violence.