Sandy Hook: A Principal’s Perspective on Mental Health Issues and Violence in Schools

By Dr. Charles Bindig

Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, I have been searching for a solution to the problem that all schools face: The potential for violence due to the exceptional vulnerability of the institution.

As a previous elementary school principal, I spent many a day trying to manage irate parents and out-of-control students. Over the weekend, I told my wife that I could think of at least three students in my career who, in my opinion, were capable of serious acts of violence, if provoked and given the perfect opportunity to act. I have come to the conclusion that the massacre in Connecticut could not have been prevented unless you had armed the administrators and the school custodian, which I actually think is a good idea. However, the article published in The Blue Review, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: It’s Time to Talk About Mental Illness,” provided a perspective that just might lead us to the real problem with violence in schools.

There are many students who suffer from some type of a behavioral problem that has the potential to escalate toward desperate behavior in the form of violence, not only toward their family, but toward society in general. The author of the above article indicated that she has viewed the gradual decline of her child to the point that she is now afraid of her son. In my experience, it is unusual for a parent at the elementary level to make this admission and will fight the system until the system actually needs to act – usually after a tragic event.

The schools have only one tool at their disposal that can address serious problem behaviors and that is referral to the special education community. This involves parents agreeing to have their children tested for a learning disability, of which behavior can be a factor, if it impedes learning. A school principal has the authority to remove a dangerous child from school pending a psychiatric evaluation, but that may not extend beyond a 10-day legal limit. If the parents object to any of the actions, then the process may be suspended.

What we are seeing in the above article and the massacre in Newtown are human beings beset with serious behavioral disorders, engaged in a downward spiral, that responsible adults are ill equipped to reverse. Children in elementary school can present these behaviors and are generally managed due to their small stature, but as they get older, the issue is compounded by size and a disorder that has been untreated.

As a former elementary principal, I could not have defended my school against such an assault. I did understand that it was important to remove problem children and get them the help that they needed. Many times parents were not willing partners in this process, and denial of a serious problem was commonplace. We need to keep our elementary schools the cute nurturing environments they have always been, but we need to equip our administrators with the legal tools that can not only create a safe environment for all, but to afford everyone the right to be a mentally healthy individual.

We need to recognize that parents who do not get the mental health help for their children are as abusive as parents who physically hurt their children.

~Dr. Bindig is the senior manager of educational outreach for American Public University System and a faculty member for the School of Education. He holds an undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey and a Master’s Degree in Musicology from Rutgers University. Dr. Bindig received an EdD from Nova Southeastern University with a dual concentration in Educational Leadership and Instructional Technology. He has 32 years of experience as a public school teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in the New Jersey public schools. Dr. Bindig served as the Assistant Director of Global Programs for the Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program, and was the administrator of the Fulbright Interfaith Fellowship Program. Dr. Bindig has taught for several online universities as well as serving as a dissertation advisor for Nova Southeastern University for 10 years. His main focus in educational research is raising student achievement via technology.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

active shooter administration American Public University American Public University System AMU APU APUS behavioral issues in the classroom bullying classroom classrooms common core compassion dealing with mentally unstable children Dr. Conrad Lotze education education administration educational leadership educators higher education online learning online teaching personalized learning preparing to be a teacher principal perspective on school shooting professional development for teachers professional educator Sandy Hook Elementary School Sandy Hook school shooting school administrators school counseling School of Education school shooting science social media students teachers Teach for America teaching teaching online teaching to the test technology technology in education technology in the classroom tips for teachers