Prevention over reaction to resolve school violence

Mar 9, 2018

A national group of scholars is calling for 'prevention' over 'reaction' in wake of the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida last month. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley talked with a University at Buffalo expert who has joined the national 'call for action' to prevent gun violence.

"It's been an evolution for us. We actually came out with a statement after the Sandy Hook shooting,” said Amanda Nickerson, director of UB's Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention.

Inside a pre-school hallway.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Some six years after the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, schools are still highly vulnerable to an active shooter.   

"We need communication, collaboration, connection – so that if people know that something is happening that they report it. Mental health is very important," explained Amanda Nickerson, director of UB's Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention.

Nickerson is part of the national endorsement of an interdisciplinary group of researchers. These scholars said it is time to change the mindset and policy from reaction to prevention. 

“We need communication, collaboration, connection – so that if people know that something is happening that they report it. Mental health is very important,” Nickerson explained.

But Nickerson tells us it’s not about arming teachers, instead they’re calling for a ‘public health’ approach to prevent gun violence.

"Then we’re also looking – once there’s already a concern – what do we need, both in terms of coordinated school and community-based mental health services and a movement away from exclusionary discipline to really positive social, behavioral and emotional academic success, but from a gun control issue, it’s also getting stricter about our universal background checks to screen out violent offenders – people who have been hospitalized for violence toward others,” Nickerson remarked.    

Nickerson also told WBFO News gun access is a prime factor.

“Getting rid of them completely is not what we are advocating for. I think that we contend well-executed laws can reduce gun violence, but also protect constitutional rights, so I think you can think about it as common sense,” declared Nickerson.    

Inside a Buffalo school hallway.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Next Tuesday, March 13, UB will be hosting the 15th annual Safe Schools Initiative Seminar at the North Campus in Amherst. It includes Advanced School Threat Assessment Training. The goal is to help address mental health issues, enhance collaborations and de-escalate crises. One of the keynote speakers will be Michele Gay, who lost her daughter at the Sandy Hook shooting. She founded The Safe and Sound Schools initiative.