Although, this past Sunday was Valentine’s Day, a typical day to celebrate happiness and love, many individuals, couples, parents and families honored and remembered the lives lost at the Parkland School shooting instead. They spent the day saddened by the occurrences at Marjory Stoneman Douglass high school in 2018, hoping and praying that no one else will ever be faced with the devastation, loss of life and other long-lasting impacts that a school shooting has on a community.
We recently spoke with Dr. Joe Erardi, school safety and security consultant and former superintendent who led the recovery, rebuilding and re-opening of Sandy Hook, post tragedy. He stated, how important (it is) to recognize that public secondary schools with-out the pandemic create anxious students, staff and parents. He explained that if you layer the pandemic on top of that, you have anxiety and the unknown at a level no one has ever experienced. He continued stating that “anxiety leads to bad behavior, and off-centered behavior and leads young adults to really bad spaces.” This year has been like no other, “we have all seen defiance across the country, sadly with celebration. For kids that want to fall into that lane, have had the opportunity to watch and learn. Coming out of the pandemic, everyone needs to have a laser focus on student and school safety” Dr. Erardi points out.
As we reflect on school shootings, such as Parkland FL, we studied the average number of days between these events in the United States from 2015 and 2018, and the result are devastating, a mere 77 days. There were 9 shootings in 2018, the highest number in the 20-years since 1999. When schools closed in-person learning and went fully remote due to COVID-19 March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the US since 2002, but since then, there were 37 incidents across the United States where someone sustained an injury or death as a result of a school shootings.
When it comes to how children are exposed to gun violence, gunfire at schools is just the tip of the iceberg– every year, nearly 2,900 children and teens are shot and killed and nearly 15,600 more are shot and injured. An estimated 3 million American children are exposed to shootings per year. Witnessing shootings — whether in schools, communities or homes has a devastating impact.
We recently spoke with Chief, Joseph Cordiero of the New Bedford Police Department who stated, “most folks are concerned with what’s going on with the pandemic right now. They’re not thinking about the long-term effects”. His advice to parents is that they “take a vigilant, proactive role with their children”. Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and ; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.  Deputy Jimmy Shelton agrees that the social and emotional impact of the pandemic, will be front and center when kids go back to school. Even though incidents for 2020 are lower due to lockdowns, he said it “doesn’t mean school shootings are going to stop, mass shootings are not going to stop.”