Living with Columbine: Protecting Our Kids

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As the mother of a child just entering middle school in the district where the infamous Columbine High School shooting occurred, I have a unique perspective on safety in our schools. I have made it my personal responsibility to seek out the latest information on school safety issues because of where my children attend school.

I know there are individuals who desire to repeat or copy this tragedy that impacted not only members of our community—many whom are personal friends—but also our state and nation.

There are over:

  • 86,000 children in Columbine school district
  • 820,000 children in Colorado
  • 9 million children in the United States

It is imperative that we all work together to advocate for the safety of our children in schools because of the continued threat of these types of tragedies.

We are fortunate that in our school district we have safety and security leaders who are the gold standard in school safety. Yet this alone does not prevent others from repeating this heartbreaking event in other schools or public places. The environment in which our children learn and grow impacts their ability to reach their full potential.

One resource we have in Colorado is the Safe2Tell program, which was created in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting. This program is an anonymous way for students, parents, school staff and community members to report concerns regarding their safety or the safety of others to safety personnel.

Safe2Tell also provides technical assistance to schools and communities before and after tragic events. From January 2016 to May 2016 alone, there were 544 reports of students threatening suicide, 528 reports of bullying and 470 reports of drugs and alcohol usage. And the worst fear of every parent, 136 reports of planned school attacks.

Colorado PTA passed a resolution supporting Safe2Tell in April 2016 and we work to promote this as a resource that should be used in all districts.

Our children deserve a quality education, but in 2016 this means serving the mental, physical, developmental and behavioral needs of our children, in addition to academics.

At the federal level, National PTA focuses on advocacy efforts and policies that urge our policymakers to continue to take action to protect our children, like we have done in Colorado.

National PTA advocates for a waiting period and comprehensive background checks prior to buying a firearm for purchases from licensed and unlicensed dealers.

Legislation requiring background checks and waiting periods can help to slow down the intentional tragedies that can and do change our lives forever.

I had access to hunter safety classes as a student growing up in a rural community. However, this education is not available as commonly in metropolitan areas, where many major tragedies occur.

National PTA has always advocated for raising awareness of firearm safety and safe gun storage programs, to protect your child who might happen upon a firearm while at a sleepover or playdate with a friend.

We have an obligation to create environments for our children that are truly safe, and also give them access to services they need to deal with the challenges facing them in school.

Because it’s our responsibility to serve and protect every child so they have the chance to grow up and reach their full potential.

This article is the second in a series leading up to National PTA’s Legislative Conference, March 7-9, 2017. To read the first in the series, visit Good Nutrition Policy + Parent Support = Academic Achievement. To learn more about LegCon, visit PTA.org/LegCon

Shawna Fritzler is the Treasurer and Advocacy Team Lead of Colorado PTA.

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