Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Do your students understand their duty to warn?
After the tragic Parkland, Florida school shooting, many students there became politically active. They wanted the state and Federal governments to do something about this apparently relentless pattern of school shootings.
Students have organized hundreds of March For Our Lives marches across the country. They advocate stricter gun control. We all know the difficulties they face in trying to change gun laws in the United States.
But there is another action that every student nationwide can take immediately that faces no political obstacles and can be put in place immediately: accept the Duty to Warn.
Nearly every school shooter takes time planning and preparing for his or her attack. And along the way, nearly all of them share their plans and intentions with at least one other student. In many cases, they tell many other students.
Students often believe that they must adhere to an unwritten code of silence: you don't tell teachers or administrators about what other students are doing.
It's one thing to practice the code of silence for minor rule infractions. It's quite another to think that a plot for a school shooting falls under the code of silence. It does not.
Students have a duty to warn when they learn of a plan that a student intends violence toward himself or toward others. It must be made clear to all students that they must tell adults at the school what is happening.
The law requires that professionals who operate under confidentiality must breach confidentiality if their client poses an imminent threat to himself, the professional or third parties. Likewise, students must understand that they have a responsility to breach confidentiality, i.e., break the code of silence, when they learn that another student is making plans or preparations to do harm.
This doesn't require an act of Congress. We don't need to make a Federal case of it. We do need to get it across to students that the best way to eliminate school killings is to prevent violent acts. And the most important key to prevention is for those students who learn about threats - and some almost always do - must accept their duty to warn by notifying a teacher or admnistrator that a student is planning violence. Maybe each of the hundreds of March for Our Lives events should include a chance for each student to sign a simple pledge, acknowledging the duty to warn as one of the easiest ways to save students from violent attacks.
Edclick's School Safety Manager helps educators express concerns about certain students, evaluate the threats that they may pose and intervene to reduce and eliminate threats.
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School Safety Manager, prevention, school violence, duty to warn, code of silence