Published On: Sat, Aug 25th, 2018

School Violence is an Epidemic We Must Cure!

By Robert S Weinroth

In the words of Duval County Superintendent Diana Green, the continuing pattern of violence plaguing our schools, nationwide, is a “troubling reflection of what’s happening in the community.”

This was her reaction after a deadly shooting on Friday night outside the football game at Raines High School in Jacksonville.

In the shadow of the massacre at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland last February and the more recent shooting at Palm Beach Central in Wellington, a sober review of the causes of these incidents (eschewing the debate on assault weapons and the need for greater security at schools) is critical. There have been at least 60 incidents of gunfire on school grounds this year.

That statistic is but the tip of a frightening iceberg. Every year over 2,700 children and teens are killed by gunfire and over 14,000 more are shot and injured. The question we must address is, WHY?

The mass murder of 17 people, students and staff, at Parkland’s MSD High School on Valentines Day represents a small percentage of the growing number of incidents plaguing school administrators, nationwide.

In the aftermath of Parkland, many people have noted the alleged shooter sent out multiple “red flag” warnings on his need for help. In hindsight, one can only wonder if early intervention might not have averted this tragedy. Looking at his actions, it is easy to lament the fact that someone did not intervene and restrain him from acting on his violent impulses.

But what of the more recent incidents? Are we looking at a societal issue of needing to focus on anger management and mental health counseling?

Prevention through a more holistic approach of establishing policies that improve social, cultural, and economic conditions within our communities while reducing teens’ access to guns is but one step in combating this growing problem and is more effective than intervening after a tragedy strikes.

Creating a safe supportive school environment is essential to ensuring student safety, academic and social success. There are multiple elements to establishing an environment where students feel safe, connected, valued, and responsible for their own behavior and academic success.

Key to this is preventing all forms of violence, be it bullying, aggressive classroom behavior, gun use, or gang activity. Students need to be taught to understand the causes of aggressive behavior, how to be empathetic while learning problem solving and anger management techniques.

The ultimate goal is to deescalate the naturally occurring conflicts within the school environment and to substitute conflict resolution tools to prevent rather than respond to activities that can lead to antisocial behavior and violence. No amount of facility hardening or security will eliminate the potential for violence. But, addressing its causes rather than its results will result in a safe environment for learning.

One source for establishing programs to meet this need is the Florida Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support Project. Its mission is to increase the capacity of Florida’s school districts to use team-based planning and problem solving to implement positive behavioral interventions and supports within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports by providing training and technical assistance to districts in the development and implementation of positive behavioral interventions and.

To learn more about the multi-tiered system of supports offered by FL PBIS, go to: http://flpbis.cbcs.usf.edu/index.html

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 26 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman and former member of the City Council where he served for four years. Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. Weinroth, who is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey, served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services INC (FREEDOMED®), an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth was elected president of two homeowners associations (Boca Falls HOA and Briarcliff at Woodfield Country Club HOA) and has served as a Board member of the Bay Winds HOA. He was also appointed to serve on the Safety & Security Committee at Woodfield Country Club HOA, its finance committee and the Club by-laws, long-range planning and finance committees. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15 th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. Weinroth has also served on the boards of two synagogues, most recently B’nai Torah Congregation where he served as Financial Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President and Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee. He was elected to the School Advisory Councils for Waters Edge Elementary and Olympic Heights High School and the Donna Klein Jewish Academy board. In 2014 Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council where he served as CRA Vice- chair and Deputy Mayor during his tenure. He was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach transportation Planning Authority, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

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