“We Don’t Want to Live in Fear” Parents Speak out on Teen Gun Violence in NWA

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA)– Parents and school districts are speaking out after gun violence among teens continues to be a problem across the state.

Monday morning, an Arkansas eighth grader was accused of shooting another student inside a school in Prescott.

This follows a trend of teen gun violence we’ve been seeing in the Northwest Arkansas area.

It’s prompting the question;  What can the community do to stop the violent acts?

“We are all nervous to send out our kids into the world everyday, and we don’t want to live in fear,” said Stephannie Baker, a Moms Demand Action member.

Baker, a mom of two, asks that schools not only increase physical security to prevent gun violence in the classroom, but support the mental health of their students.

“We need a multi-faceted approach. It’s not just one answer,” she said.

Recently, a student took a stolen gun to Har-ber Highschool in Springdale.

The district said with 17 school resource officers on hand, it doesn’t plan on ramping up security.

Rick Schaeffer, the communications director of Springdale schools said, “With the incident at Har-Ber, there were two resource officers there at the time and they handled that very quickly so that’s probably the best security we could have.”

But Schaeffer does say that this year, his team introduced social workers to the district, helping students with their mental health in addition to their counselors.

Michael Flowers, the director of clinical services at Youth Bridge said, “We really have our finger on the pulse of the community in that regard.”

Flowers, an advocate for the community’s children, said his organization sees teens who have been involved with gun violence often.

“School shooters have a history of being bullied or being threatened by others and they’ve already communicated their plans to some person in one way or another that they’re going to act out,” he said. “What that tells us is that we’re on the cusp of fully understanding how to intervene, we’re just not getting there in time.”

Flowers calls for educators to look for the warning signs before hand; a drop in grades, a difficult home life, high levels of poverty–any background that would cause a kid to feel unsafe.

He also says a strong connection between a child and a adult they can trust is vital.

“They need to know it’s okay to talk about things and it’s okay to have those big emotions, they just need to learn the coping mechanisms to deal with them,” said Baker.

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