We must ‘all learn’ from the tragic school shootings so that history doesn’t repeat itself

Dear Editor:

We now have more senseless deaths in the name of peer pressure. There are five common threads in these school shootings. The shooters are all male (until recently); all have been bullied and ridiculed to the point of feeling tortured; all have had access to guns; all have told friends and none of these friends have gone to the authorities.

Is ridiculing and bullying someone else so important to some young people that they can’t stand back and see how it is hurting their peers? Is peer pressure (whether of isolation or threats) so strong for our young people today that they are willing to stand back and watch others die? If so, then change needs to occur on many different levels.

The friends of the young gunman in Santee, California, were so unsure of his threats that they frisked him before school. Someone did tell an adult, but that adult thought his own assessment was correct. There is no more room for hindsight. We can no longer look back on situations such as these and say, “If only I had told someone.” These events have such a strong impact on everyone — those who were ridiculed, those who died, their families, the friends, the school, the community and the nation. We are mourning and frightened, but not learning.

Capital Health System at Fuld has Youth Emergency Services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 609-396-6722 if you have a concern about someone making such threats. People can call their local police departments. Concerns such as these can be assessed by people with the knowledge and skill necessary to prevent such tragedies. The Traumatic Loss Coalition in Mercer County is a group of concerned professionals and community members who work to prevent deaths and who are also around to help the survivors pick up the pieces of their lives that were shattered when friends and loved ones have died.

Families need to pay close attention to the words of hate that are sometimes so easily said in the home. The words of fear, or worse yet, the silence and insolation of our sons and daughters need to be questioned and discussed. Peer pressure comes in many forms: bullying, isolation, mob mentality (Mardi Gras Mayhem in Philadelphia), and even as small as not asking questions in class because others will think you are too smart or too stupid. It takes confidence and courage to stand up in the face of fear and do something that goes against the crowd. It also takes time for parents and others in authority to take time each day to talk to their children/students/community members about what is happening in their lives. We need to be there with helpful, realistic and responsible strategies to help these young people deal with the fear of isolation, retaliation and possible legal involvement.

As a Children’s Home Society of New Jersey prevention specialist, working in eight schools in Mercer County through our Kids Intervention with Kids in School Program, I find it imperative to speak openly with students, parents, faculty and administration with regard to peer pressure, bullying and the physical and emotional safety of our children. It’s okay not to like someone or to disagree with them, but it is not okay to bully, pressure or kill. How sad for the families of those who have died in previous school incidents to know that their children were not the last to die because of this hate and fear. This can change. We all need to learn from history, recent or past, and take the appropriate actions in our own homes and in our schools. Talk with your children often. Let’s make sure they all feel worthwhile and have healthy futures.

Ann Suabedissen, LPC, CPS
Program Administrator of KIKS (Kids Intervention with Kids in School)
The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey


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