Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
This week as cleanup began, I thought a great deal about safety in schools. Realistically, schools either have to be safe for everyone or for no one, to return.
Particularly in schools, safety takes many forms: physical, social, emotional and psychological.
There is a myriad of things that parents do not naturally consider, which impact their children’s physical safety in schools; one example – Science Labs.
Are all of the chemicals being stored safely, in the correct containers, with accurate inventory and expiry dates? If specific chemicals cannot be shipped together, they must not be stored together.
What about appropriate disposal? Is there adequate protective gear provided for students? Most importantly, are there facilities installed for the worst-case scenario – a chemical touching the skin or splashing in the eyes? Why is it not mandatory to have an emergency shower and eye-wash station in every Chemistry Lab? I installed one at my school because I am a mother first. Students must be physically safe in hazardous environments.
Every child is my child. We must also ensure students are “safe from exposure to weapons and threats, theft, violence, bullying, harassment and access to illegal substances.”
Where students covertly or overtly possess cellphones, parents should be aware that any child’s image can be recorded.
The worst case is not as improbable as you think: images distorted for social media or dark web publication. To an overwhelming extent, children ‘know not what they do.’ Why? Because most have no idea of the shifting guidelines of social etiquette and common sense is far from ‘common’ anymore. Compassion and ‘doing unto others’ have disappeared into the abyss of discarded Literature.
Seldom are children exposed to social propriety beyond the home; many are not even taught any there. Practice in situ is questionable.
The world is moving too fast. We are not adapting; teaching new expectations of behaviour. We simply have no time to. So, we ban, threaten, confiscate and punish.
Students are left dazed, with neither inherent rationale nor external explanation. Their response is anger or complacency; they are lost, confused by consequences.
The fact is, we cannot keep up with technological evolution as it exponentially impacts social behaviour. In any case, students are way ahead of us, and they creatively detour, ‘going underground’, in the event that we adapt parameters.
Any response we create today is obsolete by tomorrow. Consider the following, terrifying research. Approximately 34 per cent of students report experiencing cyberbullying during their lifetime (Hinduja & Patchin, 2015).
Over 60 per cent of students who experience cyberbullying reported that it immensely impacted their ability to learn and feel safe while at school (Hinduja, 2018).
Students who experienced bullying or cyberbullying are nearly 2 times more likely to attempt suicide (Hinduja & Patchin, 2018).
59 per cent of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online, and over 90 per cent believe it’s a major problem for people their age (Pew Research Center, 2018).
Targets of cyberbullying are at a greater risk than others of both self-harm and suicidal behaviors (John et al., 2018). Approximately 18 per cent of youth report self-harming at least once, impacting 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys (Monto, McRee, & Deryck, 2018).”
Current research suggests that suicide ideation and attempts among adolescents have nearly doubled since 2008 (Plemmons et al., 2018), making suicide the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals 10-34 years of age (CDC, 2017).
Mental health generally, and in young people particularly, is at an all-time low – further impacted now by the pandemic. “Approximately 1 in 5 children and youth in the US experience serious mental health concerns associated with trauma, social isolation, and bullying, yet only 20% of them receive the help they need (CDC, 2019).”
So, how can we help our children? Be in no doubt that many, increasingly, need help.
I am extremely concerned about boys, who generally have been conditioned to reject support, “for all sorts of problems even though they encounter problems at the same or greater rates as women.”
“Are men socialised to believe that they can always solve their own personal problems? Why all the posturing and covering up of their worries, insecurities and personal hangups? Why the need to present as having it all ‘together and ‘everything is cool’. Why are men generally so unwilling to acknowledge to themselves that they may have a psychological problem?”
Perhaps we need to reverse the mindset and instil in our boys that courage starts with self-awareness and that therapy, which is simply a discussion-aimed reflection, is a mark of strength? I feel like a stuck record: let’s start through teaching more reflective thinking, and less regurgitation.
If we, as a society, do not collaboratively focus on the psychological safety of our youth, we are going to lose generations of multi-potentialities to all manner of mental health consequences.
Schools can impact positive change in so many ways but we need: to teach differently, professional multi-disciplinary teams and time – the most crucial element of all.
Our children are NOT safe. Am I alone ostrich, howling in anguish, as I refuse to shove my head in the sand?
Julia Hanschell can be contacted on smartstudying @gmail.com.