3 Facts About School Violence

Dr. Tony Beliz, Deputy Director of the DMH Emergency Outreach Bureau, LA County

Dr. Tony Beliz, Deputy Director of the DMH Emergency Outreach Bureau, LA County

Shout-out to Nadine for being an awesome supervisor and keeping her interns up-to-date on workshops and presentations!

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Dr. Tony Beliz just spoke about threat assessment for school violence, and he touched a few points about connection that I'd like to address. He's been in the field longer than I've been an adult, so his experience gives insight into the current state of education and quality of life our children are experiencing.

The presentation reviewed a brief history of school violence, and how difficult it is to find commonalities between those who decide to act violently. Videos found on shooters' computers, or videos presented on the media were also shown.

Jasper Johns the tripawd doesn't like the topic, but he approves of spreading awareness to promote safety in schools.

Dr. Beliz was able to provide themes for parents, school personnel, and mental health professionals to look for (here's some):

1) Death & Killing:

These children have thought about death and killing for some time. There are clues (writing, pictures, internet history, hobbies, etc) to these thoughts, and sometimes adults or parents dismiss or overlook important subtle hints from children who need help.

  • The youngest committed suicide reported in the US is 4 years old.
  • Sometimes they're attempts for attention, sometimes they're serious. There is an underlying pain that hasn't been addressed. Your presence and encouragement in a child's life matters.

2) Isolation:

Loneliness and lack of purpose can do a number on us. We are born to be connected, yet bullying and technological isolation has created larger gaps in human interaction for our children. In order for us to be connected, opportunity and practice must be encouraged.

  • It can be overwhelming during transitions in life, and simply offering validation and solutions can make a huge difference.

3) Absence of Play or Exercise:

Your child is attending an impressive school if it has a thorough physical education program. It's rare for me to work with a public school where its students have a quality P.E. program every day.

  • Dr. Beliz cited where one school implemented mandatory physical activity for its students each day and the following year there was a 90% decrease in violent behaviors.
  • We are becoming a very sedentary culture. Obesity is increasing, and social skills such as conflict resolution, problem solving, and emotional regulation are taught through play and modeled by peers.

There was also a comment on how parents may have a difficult time distinguishing between parenting and enrolling one's children in endless extracurricular activities. Yes, our culture is competitive, and yes, parents want to give their children opportunities they didn't have. When thinking back about childhood, I hope there will be times with connection, and not just being in the car chauffeured from one lesson to the next.

Conversations matter, and creating a safe environment for self-disclosure is important. Sometimes we're so caught up with competition and bills, we forget that children are little people looking at us for guidance. Our culture is at a pivotal time where technological advances have made life easier, yet face-to-face communication is becoming rare. When play used to be a normal activity for children, many of us have chosen to babysit with video games and internet.

There is nothing wrong with video games and internet in moderation. My generation grew up on them. Video games aren't going away anytime soon. However, this raises ethical questions on how responsible our generation will be in valuing interpersonal relationships to foster skills that develop through face-to-face interactions. Just try going to dinner without your smartphone, or even spend an entire day without games to see the shift in culture.

The art of conversation is a skill difficult to master, and seems like a key factor in promoting a new normal of empathy and compassion. When looking back on the most important adults or mentors in my life, money or extravagance isn't part of the memory. I remember words of encouragement, I remember when we went to feed the ducks at the pond, and I remember the taste of pancakes every time we went to work with my dad. To parents & those working with children: How will you be remembered by them?

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