Predicting death in your child’s school in 2023, part three | Marvin Zuker

By Marvin Zuker

Law360 Canada (January 20, 2023, 10:48 AM EST) --
Marvin Zuker
To reduce crime, examining the situation and environment of a crime can produce preventative effects. The nature of the circumstances of a violent incident offers many points of prevention, including the possibility of disrupting events during the planning stages, a better understanding of the appropriate use of school level security measures and active policies that could limit devastation.

In How to stop school rampage killing: Lessons from averted mass shootings and bombings, Eric Madfis uses examples from several averted shootings to point how the appropriate use of threat assessments, combined with creating a culture where students feel supported to come forward with concerns can serve as a meaningful early warning system. In these data, a not insignificant number of perpetrators are adults, many of whom are not affiliated with the school. Access and entry requirements can be re-examined, as can school building design, to limit opportunities for non-school actors.

It is too simplistic to suggest that people are the problem about crime and our schools. It is about reducing the causes of violence, addressing them before they occur instead of just punishment it when the damage is already done. Strong communities keeping everyone safe might be the message. We must care about solving the problem and pay attention to what caused it.

Organizations like One Million Experiments track innovations aimed at producing scalable solutions that do not rely on punishment.

What is a community-based violence intervention program?

Community-based violence intervention (CVI) programs focus on partnerships with those most affected by violence and gun violence, especially from Black and Hispanic communities. The collaborations between government and community stakeholders give CVI programs credibility. CVI programs focus on reaching the small number of people who are most connected to local cycles of violence and have proved to reduce homicides by as much as 60 per cent where they are implemented. These programs are staffed by culturally competent community members who have lived experiences with violence, as well as social service providers such as therapists and job counsellors. They provide support and access to services by investing in opportunities for people to pursue alternative avenues for addressing and resolving conflicts.

There are a variety of different evidence based CVI models, and a growing number of innovative approaches that are responsive to the changing ways in which young adults in particular interact with one another, their communities and their local governments. All of these models centre “trusted messengers” as a core part of their service design, recognizing that those with proximity to community violence have a critical role to play in designing and implementing solutions. Below is a list of the defining characteristics of some of the best-known CVI models

The governance structure for CVI programs must include real power-sharing between government and community decision-makers. We have failed in this area. Within weeks of a school’s tragedy, it must be prepared to deal with a wide variety of opinions and perspectives as to how the school, school board, and the minister of education need to respond or change in the wake of what happened. A broad range of voices should be heard long before a plan is put into place. Some decisions are not going to be left to the leadership alone. We must, must empower student voices and staff members in an organized way.

We must keep our students front and centre by setting up a clear structure for listening to their wants and needs as decisions are made. Then be prepared to incorporate student voices that may feel left out.

A student voice must be heard and incorporated into the entirety of a school’s recovery process. Students should be given adequate time to talk about what happened, not just with mental health professionals, but also with other students, trusted adults and close friends. It is important to ask for student opinions and find out what causes stress, anxiety and other emotional responses.

This is the third instalment of a five-part series. Part one: Predicting death in your child’s school in 2023: March for our lives. Part two: Predicting death in your child’s school in 2023, part two.

Marvin Zuker was a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice, where he presided over the small claims, family and criminal courts from 1978 until his retirement in 2016. He is associate professor at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, where he teaches education law. Zuker is the author and co-author of many books and publications, including The Law is Not for Women and The Law is (Not) for Kids.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's firm, its clients, 
The Lawyer’s Daily, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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