Parkland student: Ending violence begins in the classroom

While we may never know why a young man decided to carry out a mass shooting at my high school -- Marjory Stoneman Do...

Posted: Jun 12, 2018 6:18 AM
Updated: Jun 12, 2018 6:18 AM

While we may never know why a young man decided to carry out a mass shooting at my high school -- Marjory Stoneman Douglas -- we do know that he was mentally unstable. In the weeks and months leading up to the tragedy, law enforcement officials received repeated calls, alerting them to the potential threat he posed.

And when he was a student, he also exhibited signs of being unwell. I would know -- I was in his first period class. Every day, I would see him talking to himself, carrying his books (or, sometimes, nothing at all) in a plastic bag and dragging his feet. He would rarely engage in conversation with any of us.

In other words, there were warning signs, and collectively we either missed them or chose to ignore them. As we attempt to move forward, we must acknowledge our failures and search for solutions that avoid the repetition of such tragedies.

As we see an increase in mass shootings, suicide and depression, I have one solution I'd like to propose: incorporating mental health education into school curriculums across America.

There is already some evidence that mental health training programs can reduce school violence and improve student performance. Take Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, where the introduction of a quiet time program -- 15-minute periods of quiet in the middle of the school day -- have resulted in increased school attendance, a reduction in suspensions and overall improvement in student grade performance.

San Francisco isn't the only school system experimenting with programs that feature quiet time or meditation. A charter school in Philadelphia introduced a similar program and saw a 90% reduction in violence in only one year. And an elementary school in West Baltimore has implemented the Mindful Moment Room, where students who misbehave spend time reflecting on their misdeeds. The room has drastically reduced the number of visits students make to the principal's office per year.

While many of these programs are in the experimental phase, there are positive indicators that they help address some of the critical issues with the American system of education -- one built on competition, the best grades and the highest test scores.

This kind of competition inevitably leads some students to feel they are behind some of their peers. And in some cases, it may even lead to suicide. In the United States today, nearly 4,600 people under the age of 25 commit suicide each year.

While most students who experience feelings of insecurity, inferiority or depression do not commit suicide or carry out mass shootings, there is no denying that many school shooters have mental health issues that do not get the attention they deserve.

But the education system has other flaws. It tends to value academic perfection over personal growth and self-expression. Teaching students to memorize or how to take a test doesn't provide them with the space to explore or give them the opportunity to learn the true meaning of leadership. Students understand that they cannot always take classes that they will enjoy. They have to take classes that are more heavily weighted to boost their GPA. Yet these classes require relentless effort and impeccable time management. And, more importantly, these classes rarely, if ever, give them the mental health training necessary to navigate life's challenges.

In observing the Parkland shooter's recently released cell phone video, we see both his blatant disregard for the principles of right and wrong and the cold and hardened manner in which he describes his heinous plan. While we may not have been able to prevent the school shooting, a diverse mental health curriculum might have enabled both students and faculty to accurately identify the shooter's troublesome behavior and apply additional pressure on authorities to take action.

In the interest of being proactive, I've formed the Societal Reform Corporation, a non-profit corporation that will provide students, from kindergarten to grade 12, with a curriculum that teaches them how to positively and constructively channel stress, anger, tragedy and disappointment. It does so by providing mental health techniques that are scientifically proven to improve focus, provide stress relief and equip students with valuable tools to deal with conflict, ostracism and disappointment.

More specifically, the curriculum I am developing will provide a new experience for students that is centered around finding balance. It will include everything from lessons on the brain to breathing techniques, meditation, goal-setting, anger management and peer counseling. High schools may choose to integrate the mental health training curriculum as a required health class, while elementary and middle schools -- which have a less structured day -- can introduce these lessons when possible.

No matter what, we cannot continue on our current path. If we begin to take steps to teach students how to balance the demands of the education system with their personal growth, we may be able to prevent the senseless killing of young people across the country.

We must begin changing minds to change the world.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 76522

Reported Deaths: 3086
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16194731
Lake7742281
Elkhart495586
Allen4040163
St. Joseph361083
Hamilton2887104
Vanderburgh205313
Hendricks1943108
Cass18069
Johnson1794119
Porter136239
Clark130750
Tippecanoe124511
Madison103066
LaPorte93530
Howard92065
Kosciusko87212
Floyd82249
Bartholomew82147
Marshall79423
Monroe76732
Delaware76052
Vigo71411
Dubois71312
Boone69746
Noble69029
Hancock68839
Jackson5975
Warrick58830
Shelby56828
LaGrange56610
Grant53130
Dearborn51628
Morgan48934
Clinton4504
Henry41820
Wayne38810
White37711
Montgomery36021
Lawrence35727
Harrison35224
Decatur34232
Putnam3218
Daviess27920
Miami2772
Scott27310
Jasper2572
Greene25434
Franklin24715
DeKalb2384
Gibson2334
Jennings22812
Steuben2153
Ripley2138
Carroll2003
Fayette1957
Perry18713
Posey1800
Starke1807
Orange17824
Wells1782
Fulton1732
Wabash1715
Jefferson1662
Knox1640
Whitley1566
Tipton14912
Washington1441
Sullivan1411
Spencer1393
Clay1315
Huntington1273
Randolph1274
Newton12110
Adams1172
Owen1051
Jay920
Rush894
Pulaski821
Fountain762
Brown752
Blackford662
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike620
Vermillion590
Parke551
Switzerland530
Martin500
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0208

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 104248

Reported Deaths: 3734
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin18965531
Cuyahoga13869512
Hamilton9844259
Lucas5512326
Montgomery448998
Summit3667224
Butler303364
Marion294245
Mahoning2623256
Pickaway240042
Stark1904142
Warren185039
Lorain183177
Columbiana168360
Trumbull1563110
Fairfield143232
Delaware136519
Licking134551
Clark121315
Lake114642
Wood109058
Clermont96211
Medina95936
Miami86839
Tuscarawas79714
Allen79446
Portage77664
Greene73012
Mercer64113
Belmont62726
Richland61912
Erie61028
Ashtabula57746
Geauga56144
Wayne55459
Ross5094
Madison50310
Darke41429
Huron4115
Ottawa40426
Sandusky39917
Hancock3973
Athens3612
Holmes3316
Lawrence3180
Auglaize2756
Union2731
Scioto2591
Muskingum2481
Jefferson2403
Seneca2344
Shelby2154
Knox2147
Preble2122
Putnam21217
Washington21122
Coshocton1967
Champaign1882
Morrow1792
Crawford1775
Hardin17512
Clinton1716
Highland1692
Logan1672
Ashland1553
Fulton1551
Defiance1544
Wyandot1519
Brown1502
Perry1483
Williams1373
Fayette1240
Henry1222
Hocking1229
Guernsey1197
Carroll1135
Monroe9418
Pike800
Jackson770
Gallia741
Van Wert732
Paulding700
Adams642
Meigs580
Vinton322
Morgan300
Harrison261
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 84°
Angola
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 84°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 83°
Decatur
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 83°
Van Wert
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 83°
Storm Chances Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events