Opinion: Two Issues That Meet in the Tragic Middle

Former N-MUSD teacher Sandy Asper talks about guns and teen depression.

Unspeakable! Yet we keep talking about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. We can't stop. I think that we need to do more than express our pain and empathy. As so many people have said and written, we need to do way more.

It all comes down to money doesn't it?

The NRA has this country in a strangle hold with their propaganda about people that propose gun control laws as wanting to "Take your guns!," or worse "Take over our country!," or "Leave us helpless." The less-educated among us who listen to this drivel and believe it, are afraid. Afraid of what they don't really know, but afraid because they are told that they should be afraid.

The reason behind the expensive ads and the politicians that they have purchased to bang the drum for guns, is simple...MONEY. The NRA makes money, and keeps their power by paying lobbyists and threatening to primary the poor candidate that wont go along. There is NO reason in the world for anyone to have an assault weapon. This playing on people's silly paranoia has got to stop. If we care about our children and grandchildren or just humanity in general, we have got to move on gun control now.

When I was teaching and right after Columbine, we had an intruder drill that was way too real. The principal had designated one of our teachers, Guy Olguin, to dress in black and come around trying to get into our classes. We were supposed to line the kids up on the floor away from the windows and out of the line of fire.

My 37 student class was great. They got down on the floor with little or no giggling. I dropped too. I have to admit that I didn't take this drill too seriously. It was just another drill wasn't it? I knew that it was Guy, but when he started yelling and banging on the door, literally screaming at us it became real.

Newport Mesa is on it, parents. You don't have to worry more than is necessary, but here's what Newport doesn't do, and they are not alone. No school district that I know of has enough psychologists. It simply isn't a priority. Any teacher in the world can tell you which kids in their class or classes have some kind of mental problem, more specifically depression.

It's the kid who wears the same coat every day, the one who never smiles, the one who almost never talks, the quiet one who you love because he is no problem, but are afraid for, and wish you could get him help. It was and continues to be my opinion that at least a third of the students suffer depression at one time or another and it negatively affects their lives. Often it's their home situation. You can imagine how great it would be if an adult (psychologist) talked to them, gave them their card and told them that they could call anytime; while teaching them how to cope with their very often crazy home life.

Psychologists describe depression as anger turned inward. When that anger is somehow turned around, watch out.

Dave Cullen the author of the book "Columbine" says that many of the "Unspeakable Acts" could be routed if we addressed the serious problem of teen depression. Cullen says that they won't talk to their parents but most will talk to other adults.

When I was running for the N-MUSD Board of Education, I proposed that Newport have one counselor for at least every 50 students and although this was clearly impossible, one psychologist for every 200 students wouldn't be out of line. FYI Ensign Intermediate School has two counselors for around 1,100 students.

Can you imagine how great it would be if we could change the direction of these kids by simply putting some district money where it could REALLY help, not only these kids, but society in general because there is always that one kid.

There you have it. Unregulated guns all over the place and assault weapons as handy as the nearest swap meet, coupled with the real problem of mental illness and teen depression. School districts' recognition that their students need help and provide that help  would no doubt bring amazing results.

The unintended consequences might be better test scores....




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