With effective laws already on the books to address school safety, it’s going to take creative solutions to remedy the onslaught of recent threats of school violence.
Expanding access to mental health services could be a start.
That would be a much better option than the nonsensical approach of arming teachers proposed by President Donald Trump after a deadly shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school.
Since the Feb. 14 tragedy, several metro-area districts have been besieged by threats, most of them online. In some cases juvenile students were charged. In others, adults were suspected of making the threats.
Students in Kansas and Missouri are subjected to detention, long-term suspension or expulsion. Depending on the level of the threat, misdemeanor or felony criminal charges could be filed in either state.
A 14-year-old Kansas City middle school student was charged last week in juvenile court with one count of making a terrorist threat, a felony. The student is accused of taking images of firearms from Snapchat and posting them to Facebook.
As it turned out, there was no immediate danger associated with the threats, police said. Still, officers received hundreds of phone calls.
To help prevent such acts, school districts could improve mental health services for at-risk students. But a lack of funding makes that a steep challenge.
Replicating outpatient and day treatment services programs offered by organizations such as Cornerstones of Care could help.
Nine full-time therapists are spread across three school campuses and facilities in Blue Springs and Kansas City. They also provide intervention services for 50 area public and charter schools.
Mental health treatment cannot necessarily prevent threats to school safety, but it can make people more aware of the challenges young people face, said Jerry Keimig, the organization’s vice president of education.
“Kids make threats all the time, but when someone says something, we need to listen,” Keimig said.
Saint Luke’s Crittenton Children’s Center may have also found an answer with its Trauma Smart initiative in schools in eight states, including some in the bi-state area.
The program prepares parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, school bus drivers and ancillary school staff to spot the signs of trauma in a child as young as age 4.
A $187,000 grant from Jackson County’s Children Services Fund will help Crittenton implement Trauma Smart in the Hickman Mills School District next fall. The goal is to build emotional resiliency for the entire community, said Crittenton CEO Janine Hron.
And that is a sensible approach to addressing the mental health needs of young people.