As a father I know how it feels to send kids to school and wonder if they’re going to be safe. Every parent knows that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs when the calls and texts and e-mails come in from your school letting you know that the place your kids go to learn is on lockdown. Unfortunately, in the 18th Judicial District, we have far too much first-hand experience with this kind of tragedy. It shouldn’t be like this. I believe it doesn’t have to be.
I won’t tell you that violence in schools will disappear if I am elected as your District Attorney. Anyone making such a claim is not telling you the truth. But I can tell you that I will do everything in my power to promote school safety and prevent school violence. Everyone has a role in preventing school violence and I believe we must take an “all of the above” approach to school safety. We need better physical security, more School Resource Officers (SRO), access to mental health counseling, and anti-bullying campaigns. But these alone are not enough.
In addition to these initiatives, the District Attorney must focus on gun violence prevention and holding people accountable when they commit serious crimes. When a troubled or dangerous juvenile or young adult comes into the justice system, we need to ensure that they are treated responsibly in a way that helps rehabilitate them to succeed in the future, but also ensures we are not compromising the safety of other children in the process. Unfortunately, accountability in court always comes after a crime has been committed, but our response as prosecutors can and must be focused on preventing dangerous behaviors from escalating to the tragic acts of violence that our community has already seen and is still reeling from.
A recent study by the Secret Service reviewing mass shooters found that 93% of attackers had previously made threatening or concerning communications. That’s why open dialog with parents, teachers, and police is so important. Equally important are safe and anonymous reporting options for kids, such as Safe2Tell and Text-A-Tip, which have already made an impact in preventing suicides and school violence.
One of my key takeaways of the Secret Service report is the need for early intervention with students in crisis. Early intervention and school violence prevention is made possible by a well-defined and collaborative threat assessment process, including input from school personnel, law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and other experts. This is so important – because when appropriate, we can use the justice system to help by providing professional monitoring, counseling, and rehabilitation. If we work together and properly use the tools at our disposal, we can achieve the early intervention necessary to prevent and deter school violence.