Last week there was another terrorist-type school shooting. In the aftermath, it didn't take long to figure out that someone who fell between the cracks perpetrated this tragedy. This happens to be a recurring theme regardless of the venue of such an incident.

Years ago I taught an at-risk class at a junior high school. All of the students had issues. Some were in gangs, many did not live with their biological parents. A few weeks into the school year, one student came to me and told me I should take a look at one of the boy's notebooks. What I saw troubled me.

Two years earlier the boy's older brother had played Russian roulette and lost. The notebook was filled with doodles of guns. Some of the guns had tears dropping from them. His brother's name was written over and over along with the words, "Oh No!"

The school counselor was not aware of whether or not this student ever had grief counseling or therapy to help him through the loss of his brother. The parents had been in such distress that perhaps his pain had become somewhat invisible. We often hear that children are resilient, but it has been my experience that they need help to be that way. Some need more help than others.

My class was not the place to serve the problems this boy had. But the alertness and concern of his classmates along with their willingness to trust me opened the door to get assistance for him. The counselor acted quickly and he began to get the help he needed in an environment better equipped to do so.

My classroom situation happened long before Columbine. No one told my students to let me know if they became aware of anything that might indicate potential trouble. What they told me they did know was that I cared about them and that they trusted me.

Not all students that have serious issues commit such horrible acts. But just because a student isn't a risk to the safety of others does not mean that they are not at risk.

Changing locks on doors, installing surveillance cameras, and upgrading school security does not change the climate in a school or anywhere else. Changes in attitudes have to come from within each person. Teaching Dignity and Respect principles can help and above all adults must model the behavior.

This is an important point. Teachers and other school employees can be subjected to mobbing and bullying by their peers, supervisors, and others, including students. When one changes the climate in a school or workplace or a community, it must be for everyone and impact everyone.

Dignity and Respect for everyone, no exceptions, is the bottom line.

Author's Bio: 

copyright 2008 Gail Pursell Elliott.
Gail is "The Dignity and Respect Lady" and is the author of School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse: See It - Stop It - Prevent It with Dignity and Respect and the e-zine Food for Thought. She offers training and consulting services and is a featured speaker at conferences. Contact Gail through her website