By Alan Sorensen
Only 20 people, including three area ministers and about eight public school administrators attended a satellite teleconference titled Kids, Guns, Violence last night at Havre Middle School.
The hour-and-a-half presentation, sponsored by United Methodist Teleconference Connection, was peppered with dialog among panel members in Nashville, Tenn., and telephoned questions from viewers around the country.
Panelists only touched on the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., that left 15 people dead and sparked the teleconference. They focused most of their attention instead on what can be done to prevent children from acting out the way Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did.
The general consensus of the panelists was that adults have to get involved in childrens lives. If parents arent responding to their childrens emotional, spiritual and psychological needs, they agreed, then other adults need to step forward and fill those needs.
The panelists outlined five signs children at risk of becoming threats to themselves and others exhibit:
Serious physical fighting;
Abuse of property belonging to themselves or others;
Outbursts of rage;
Threatening others with the use of lethal weapons;
Inflicting injuries on themselves, others or animals.
Children who feel isolated or are targets of bigotry are put at greatest risk, they said. We are community; we cannot exclude anyone from community, one panelist said a Nigerian friend told him. He said sexual harassment, bullying and ruthless teasing are serious problems, too.
He asked viewers to realize, though, that our schools are much safer and kids are better behaved than widely reported.
Teachers do what they can, the panelists said, but they cant do it all. They are often the most burned out and least trained to deal with at-risk children.
To aid the schools, panelists unanimously agreed that other adults in the community must help, whether through church youth groups, Scouting, Boys and Girls Clubs, mentoring programs, or other youth activities.
Mentoring programs only work if adults step forward and do it, one panelist said. (Mentors) are a given. They work. Boys really respond to it. They need that one-on-one bonding.
Panelists offered a website and toll free number for the National Crime Prevention