LETTER: Emphasis should be on potentially dangerous students

I have been reflecting on the gun violence question for some time. Previously, I was responsible for drop-out prevention in the North Thurston School District in Lacey. This goes back to the mid- to late 1970s. I can’t help but think that many of the problems my students faced both inside and outside of the schools wouldn’t have made them prone to violent acts of frustration in today’s environment. This brings me to my point, which is placing an emphasis on students who are potentially a danger to themselves and others rather than who has what right under the constitution.

So there I was last week in a motel in Missoula, Montana, on a ski vacation when this headline in the local paper stood out, “Mental Health Access Crucial.” The author, Lucy Tompkins, goes about describing an enhanced screening program that has been deployed by the Missoula County Public Schools that recommends ways it could improve mental health and intervention services to students. You can find the article at missoulian.com. Think about it. This school district sits in the middle of some of the most pro-gun and gun enthusiast-dense territory in the United States. And yet they can take an approach that bridges the gun rights debate without setting off “rights” fireworks.

My experience doesn’t give me insight into adult shooters, but I believe I have some useful experience with teenagers who are failing socially and academically in the public schools — kids that may want to inflict harm and settle scores. Shifting the conversation to helping identify and treat people in distress damps down the on-going First and Second Amendment debate and goes right at the core problem: Who are those most likely to fire on the innocent, and how can we find them and treat them before a tragic event?

— Bruce Jackson

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