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UVA Researcher: More Than Gun Control is Needed to Prevent School Shootings

University of Virginia
Curry School of Education

The Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead last month has spurred calls for change on many fronts: gun legislation, threat reporting, and mental health care. But what about how kids are treated at schools?

Soon after 19-year old Nikolas Cruz was arrested for one of the deadliest U.S. school shootings, reports began to surface that teachers and school officials had been concerned about him for a while.

University of Virginia professor Catherine Bradshaw specializes in school-based prevention techniques. She says more attention needs to be paid to early aggressive behavior in kids, things that might normally be overlooked or easily dismissed.

“That can lead to patterns of kids acting up to get out of the classroom or get out of homework, they can also go on to get rejected by their peers because they’re not fun to play with and interact with,” says Bradshaw.

“You can imagine, something that starts off as being sort of annoying behavior in Kindergarten or 1st grade, as kids get older, that can be actually more violent or aggressive behavior that can really end kids in trouble.”

Bradshaw recently signed on to the national Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence, an 8-part strategy that says simply preparing schools for shootings isn’t adequate. Just as important, if not more so, is the psycho-social and emotional well-being of students.

“So this is why we need to be thinking holistically about what do we need to be doing in the entire school to try to improve issues around school climate, help kids feel more connected to each other, connected to the school,” says Bradshaw.

“And we’ve also seen that even teachers who feel more connected to the school, they’re more willing to intervene in situations like bullying or other kinds of violence.”