Following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, the American School Health Association formed a School Violence Taskforce. This group of past ASHA presidents has met regularly to explore and discuss long-range solutions and to develop resources and support for schools. ASHA recognizes the tremendous influence of school health professionals to lead change efforts in their communities. However, we recognize that leading such efforts will require guidance about evidence-based and research-informed best practices, training, professional development, and resources. Thus, the Taskforce is working to support the many individuals who serve and protect our students every school day.
Since the inception of the Taskforce, we’ve had more school shootings. However, we will not be daunted. We’ve made progress and will continue to strive for safer schools. Below are some highlights of ASHA’s work thus far.
In recognition of the great work being done by existing entities, ASHA sought to forge relationships with reputable organizations and elevate their work. This included a keynote presentation and follow-up breakout session by Sandy Hook Promise Vice President Paula Fynboh at our 2018 ASHA annual conference. In addition, ASHA made a $5,000 donation to Sandy Hook Promise to support its work. This was followed up with a session at our 2019 ASHA annual conference that previewed an article led by Taskforce Member, Dr. Lloyd Kolbe, which will be published in the Spring of 2020 in the Journal of School Health. As the abstract describes, this article offers “a broad overview of school gun violence in the United States by briefly outlining a public health approach to prevent school gun violence, major actions the nation has taken, current school gun violence surveillance systems, the effects of school gun violence nationwide, the extent to which our schools are implementing various interventions to prevent it, and a national strategy to move forward.” The Taskforce also reviewed the existing resources related to school violence and compiled a list of sound and reliable resources. These are posted on the Taskforce website. Finally, ASHA has recognized the heroism of those who have bravely protected students; including Keanon Lowe, who disarmed and hugged a potential school shooter. ASHA currently is formalizing a way to recognize these School Health Heroes.
Though the Taskforce has accomplished a lot, much remains to be done. Future activities that ASHA may undertake in the coming months and years include:
- Proposing one or more position statements for adoption by the ASHA Board of Directors that describe specific and detailed positions on topics such as gun control, allocation of mental health resources in schools, school violence response planning, strategies to prevent school violence, and other evidence-based solutions.
- Developing and implementing webinars and other professional development opportunities for school staff related to this topic.
- Exploring opportunities to amplify our message through partnerships and joint statements with other organizations that operate in our space.
- Proposing an advocacy agenda to urge and support federal, state, and local policies and funding that can prevent gun violence in schools.
As ASHA President, Ty Oehrtman said upon the creation of this Taskforce, “rarely in our history has there been an issue where a solution is so desperately needed . . . We can’t continue allowing our children to be caught in the middle. We must work together.”
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