Over the past few weeks, we’ve been hearing and reading a lot about the lessons learned from the 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School. I want to focus on what I believe is the single most important take-away from the tragedy and follow-up report: identifying and attending to the warning signs before we ever get to the point of another school shooting.
The signs are there. They’re always there. In the days, weeks and months following a targeted act of violence, we start to peel back the layers and acknowledge the many signs and missed opportunities. When we notice, assess, and intervene in behaviors that seem “off” or match those we know are indicators of possible mental illness, lack of coping skills, violent ideology, suicide or violence, we are taking action to prevent violence from occurring. We aren’t trying to predict violence, which is extraordinarily difficult. But, by attending to the warning signs and connecting the dots between our experience with an individual and that of others’, we are making great strides toward preventing violence.
The Report of the Office of the Child Advocate on the Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary provides a multitude of recommendations for doing things differently from now on. We can either heed this advice and take action to create a safer future for our kids or ignore it and suffer the consequences. Which will you choose?