Wednesday, Oct 06, 2021
By Dean Scott Ryan
School of Social Work
Photo credit: CBSDFW.com
Today, we faced the reality of yet another school shooting, this one in our own backyard.
This morning, local police responded to a shooting at Arlington’s Timberview High School in the Mansfield Independent School District. One student and two adults are recovering at area hospitals from injuries sustained in the shooting. A fourth person was injured, but not seriously and declined medical attention. A second student, 18 years old, is believed to be the shooter and is now in custody at Ott Cribbs Public Safety Center, just two blocks up the street from our School of Social Work.
Today’s shooting comes on the heels of an eerily similar one in Houston just four days ago. On Friday, a former student shot his way through locked glass doors into YES Prep Southwest Secondary School. He then shot the school principal in the back. The administrator survived the incident. The 25-year-old former student later was arrested and confessed to the shooting, according to Houston police.
Collectively, we are stunned. We are terribly saddened at the frequency of these school shootings and the lifelong impact that such tragic events exact on the mental health of student victims, their teachers, aides, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, crossing guards and all of their families.
We cannot stand still. We must move quickly to advocate for:
- early mental health intervention among youths
- increased hiring of Social Workers in school settings
- schools and other institutions to address social and emotional learning at early ages
In a widely cited article by Dr Allison Paolini, director of the School Counseling Program at Arkansas State University, a leading cause of gun violence in school settings is bullying (87%). The findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States are nearly identical.
These studies report that many shooters in school settings – after being bullied - felt humiliated and experienced resulting thoughts of suicide and violence.
Simultaneously, according to Dr. Paolini, “A survey of 9,000 homes reveals that about half of all Americans will meet some sort of diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder at some point in their lifetime, with the age of onset typically occurring during childhood or adolescence.”
“The reality is that large numbers of children and adolescents have undiagnosed mental disorders and the majority of those youth whose disorders are properly diagnosed do not receive treatment,” Dr. Paolini wrote in her findings.
We can do better. In Texas, our legislators are already considering defining the educational requirements of school-based counselors, requiring them to have backgrounds in Social Work. We must ask them to act quickly on this process and allow, no require, school districts to hire mental health professionals for every campus in the state.
Today, law enforcement, speaking to media, cited concerns over students’ inappropriate use of social media to issue threats against their peers and their schools. They pleaded with parents to check their children’s social media accounts and issued this warned: Violators will be prosecuted.
Social Workers must address these “pre-attack” behaviors early in students’ schooling.
Our children’s health – their very lives - are depending on it. Let’s move to action.
On behalf of the School of Social Work our thoughts, support, and hopes for healing at Timberview High School for the students, staff, administrators, and families. We are hoping for the best and a full recovery for those injured both physically and mentally.
Scott D. Ryan
Dean and Professor
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Arlington