School Psychologist Reacts to Tuesday School Shooting in Downtown St. Louis
"School shootings really are not an epidemic yet. But over the last couple of months, the uptick in shootings is happening due to not enough focus on prevention," says one local school psychologist.
Brian Sheble, a nationally certified school psychologist from St Louis, tells Patch he was not surprised by what happened in downtown St. Louis at the Stevens Institute of Business & Arts Tuesday afternoon when a man shot a financial aid adviser and then himself, as reported in Fox2 News. "The need for prevention at all costs is warranted. If our only focus in schools is on reacting, we will never take care of, or get ahead of, the problem."
Sheble said most school shooters don't snap and become one overnight. He said industry analysis indicates many adolescents develop challenges with coping skills and low tolerance for frustration.
Having been a teacher and counselor previously, Sheble said he is studying recent issues from a more holistic fashion.
He firmly believes not every school shooter has a mental problem; they instead could be just angry with themselves, other people or circumstances.
Max Daves, a St. Louis business consultant and strategic planner for multiple industries, said he agrees. "Circumstances aggregate and 'situational rage' converges into a free flow of victimization, such as what we saw when U.S. postal workers began shooting others."
Sheble said teachers and staff are the primary observers in school, and they should be trained appropriately to spot warning behaviors. "Teachers are the boots on the ground, and they often see what the real personalities of students are like day-to-day. Teachers and staffs need better, faster ways to get help with dealing with those type of warning behaviors."
Where to Start?
"A lot of schools have plans on paper, but they don't physically practice them on a regular basis," said Sheble.
And if the security/crisis plan has been in existence for longer than five years, Sheble said it is grossly out-of-date.
He said the staffs in many downtown St. Louis schools have currently been changing, principals quite a bit, especially in public schools. The St. Louis District is so large, there is a fairly large separation between principals and the district's headquarters, he said.
He said everyone involved, from the secretary to the students, must know immediately what to do when they believe they are witnessing suspicious behavior.
Sheble said he believes students need to be taught new ways of coping with challenges.
Given the seriousness of developments in today's society, he said schools staffs and parents need to be on the same page about what and how to teach children about life skills.
"Relational aggression" causes many of these life-altering situations, he said.
Sheble said bullying is defined by the person doing the aggression having more power over the victim. But, he said bullying doesn't have to be direct; it also happens through rumor and cyberbullying on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Today's children would benefit from social skills training, he said. But budget cuts have led to many of these being eliminated.
"Home-to-school collaboration should be beyond doing bake sales together," said Sheble. "I'm talking about real ownership in what happens in each school, and the willingness of school leaders to take on controversial issues, such as shootings. Principals should take the lead on forming those type of relationships and use more intricate site-based management."
He said the new focus needs to be on solving problems, and not blaming people.
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