Yesterday 20 young children under 10 years old and 7 adults were murdered in a Newtown, Connecticut grade school.
Nationwide the statistics are cold and bleak: Since the Littleton CO school slaughter there have been 13 mass murder tragedies claiming over 150 victims; all but 3 killers committed suicide; most were mentally ill or motivated by political/religious fanaticism. In every case victims were killed by effortlessly obtained handguns and assault rifles.
Even more deplorable some states have multiple cases of mass murder. In 2010 there was another Connecticut mass murder. And today none of this matters to parents of 20 murdered children or the family members of 7 others.
SCHOOL-SAFE: A FAILED PROGRAM
As I reflect on yesterday's horror I am ashamed to say I'm thinking of myself. A decade ago I ran a crime prevention research center at the University of New Haven. Our team developed an innovative violence prevention program called School-Safe. This was a few years before SafeGrowth but it deployed many of the same tactics. It was designed for schools. Some of our ideas were similar to those promoted in James Gilligen's Preventing Violence.
We were quite proud of ourselves and excited for the potential of our program. Such hubris! We sent notices to school principals. We ran a workshop to promote it. World-renown forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee generously provided our introductory keynote address and encouraged school leaders to try it out.
Of the few school leaders who showed up, none showed interest in trying it. It's now long gone.
Today I know I should be thinking of young victims in Connecticut, not of myself. But that shame doesn't tamp down the fire of some burning questions: Should I have done more to convince school leaders? What could I have done different to explain the program? Might School-Safe have saved young lives in Newtown, Connecticut? I'll never know.