INDIANAPOLIS – Kids bringing weapons to school is a nightmare for parents, teachers and other students – but a recurring reality in central Indiana this year. Over the past couple of weeks, there have been several reports of guns entering school property.
“I’m a parent of four. Two of my daughters are teachers so this is definitely a real concern,” said Butler University College of Education professor Brandie Oliver.
A gun at Frankfort High. A loaded one at Arsenal Tech. Another firearm in an elementary student’s backpack. A modified Glock 9 handgun at North Central High School. Less than one month since kids went back to class, there have been at least six reports of central Indiana students carrying weapons to school.
“Is it – they fear for their own safety? Is it because they fear for the safety of others? Do they have a sense of hopelessness? What is happening?” Oliver said.
Oliver gives future school counselors the skills to confront what she calls a very complex issue.
“We know by different surveys the CDC has done and other organizations that students have higher levels of anxiety,” she said. “We’re seeing greater levels of mental health issues within our schools.”
Oliver said schools are often exceeding the ideal student to staff member ratio, and without a trusted adult around, kids may have reactive responses to intense feelings they don’t know how to process on their own.
“My dream is that there’s an emotional word wall at every classroom at the state of Indiana so that we’re teaching kids about the spectrum of feelings,” Oliver said. “We’re not always angry. Maybe we’re embarrassed, maybe we’re frightened, but it looks like anger and that’s all the words that they know. How do we help teach kids their emotional vocabulary and emotional literacy so when these things happen they’re ready to talk about them?”
Community mentors like Kareem Hines, founder of the New B.O.Y. youth development program, said somebody needs to fill in the gaps when kids go home for the day or for the summer.
“Also getting involved in some activities where they can unpack some of that trauma, that aggression that has caused them to feel like having a gun is the only answer,” Hines said.
Trauma he said may come from hearing about other kids getting shot or killed.
“They’re scared. They really believe that a gun gives them power,” Hines said. “Some of our kids believe that a gun makes you a man.”
He said teaching conflict resolution – and even just consistently being there to listen – can make all the difference.
“They can love you and try to push you away. Just to see how long you’re going to stay. Just to see if you really care,” he said.
All who deal closely with this problem stress the consequences of unlawfully carrying a weapon. Even kids under the age of 18 can face felony charges.
New B.O.Y. is hosting a block party at New Revelations Christian Church Saturday showcasing some of the positive activities they offer kids. Hines said they’ll also be talking about gun safety and building community across the city.