A Tragedy & A Conference

Posted on February 23, 2018

A Tragedy & A Conference

I’m writing this post at the 1st National Trauma-Sensitive School Conference in Washington D.C. It has been a really cool couple of days. So excited to be part of the energy and excitement surrounding the integration of trauma-informed approaches and research into schools and classrooms. I also got the chance to present a workshop on Emotional Regulation and Behavior with my great friend, fellow Trauma-Informed Lens podcaster and mentor, Dr. Jerry Yager.

A few blocks away, a group of students laid down in protest outside the White House to stand in unity with the kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Back at the conference, we are learning about the importance of creating safety for kids struggling with trauma. In contrast, every time I turn on the news I’m reminded that on any day, in any community across our country, a person with an automatic assault killing machine threatens the lives of kids and school staff. It begs the powerful question: how do we create safe and therapeutic trauma-sensitive schools in a culture where school shootings are becoming a normal part of our lives?

Yet, down the street, a group of kids found their voice. The kids from Florida are holding elected officials accountable with the ridiculous gun culture they have created as part of the NRA money machine. And, for the first time, a group of educators from around the country are meeting and thinking about how we ensure the next troubled kid receives the love, support, and success he needs so that instead of picking up a gun, after being suspended from school, they walk across a stage to graduate high school.

I know there are many educators who read this blog, I know many more have kids in schools, and a few of us (like me) kiss our partners every morning as they go off to work as teachers, administrators, or other important roles within schools. I’m scared. I’m scared for my wife, I’m scared for my nephews, I’m scared for all those educators and kids, in all the communities throughout our country who should not have to feel their life is at risk due to educating our kids or going to school to learn.

Can this time be different? Our NRA owned policymakers have easily ignored and dismissed grieving parents over the years, but can they ignore the students? Have we found the leaders in the very kids that were traumatized by a guy with a weapon that should only be used in war? My challenge to all of us this week is to find a way to support these kids and the kids in our communities supporting their movement. Every voice, every person showing up at a rally, every call or e-mail to a policymaker not only is an effort to increase safety in our schools but gives power to those kids trying to save the lives of the next victims of an assault rifle. It might be you small effort that might make this time different!

5 responses to “A Tragedy & A Conference”

  1. Patsi Maroney says:

    It reminds me of when students & young adults started protesting the Vietnam War; same types of putdowns were happening then, “they’re just kids, what do they know?”. I’m proud to see them standing up to the powers that be; I certainly don’t want this country to turn into an armed camp with bodyguards everywhere to “ensure everyone’s safety”. That’s not the only option! Enough is enough!!!

    • Matthew Bennett says:

      Thanks Patsi! I was just having a conversation with my friend Jerry Yager about the Vietnam protests in D.C. and it was a powerful reminder of how youth (and those that support them) can fight misguided policy. Again, too many lives lost, but between this energy and the “Me Too” movement, I believe we are seeing an “opposite and equal reaction” to the old ways of thinking.

  2. Philip J. Malebranche says:

    Assault rifles are for war zones. Some insist on protecting the right to hunt; but assault rifles are good for hunting humans. Who is making the connection in the argument of the pro-gun lobby? The truth is that we are at war, and one theater of the global war is internal, domestic, American. What faction is it that belittles human life? Extremists deny the value of human life. It is a civil war, here, between those who favor democracy and others who prefer totalitarianism and domination over others. One way to involve the children is to assign to them the history of World War II. Juniors and seniors in high school should read a hefty, but readable tome by William L. Shirer, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany.” Participating in their defense in this way will give them confidence and knowledge, even as they improve their reading skills. They will recognize that World War II continues; that the targets are much the same as in the twentieth century; and they will learn how to recognize extremism. (Please see Chapter Four.) They will be aware of tactics like deception, infiltration, propaganda, duress, the persecution of political and religious leaders, the scant importance of girls and women (in a footnote in Chapter Four), and so forth. The diplomatic, economic and political history will be valuable to them as they enter adult life and the responsibilities of leadership. Taking initiative in this war, in this way, will help defray the effects of trauma.

    • Matthew Bennett says:

      Powerful words my friend. I hope the reaction right now for sensible gun safety, show more about us than the scary language used at CPAC last week. We will see in time, but I know you and many readers are doing your best to support this movement!

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