“October 18, 1985 Detroit, Michigan: During halftime of the homecoming football game between Northwestern High School and Murray-Wright High School, a boy who was in a fight earlier that day, pulled out a shotgun and opened fire injuring six students.” (K12 Academics)
School shootings are nothing new. They’ve occurred at various times since the 1700s. What is new is the amount of media attention given to such incidents. What isn’t new is the lack of intervention when a student exhibits signs of escalating the situation, ie. the fight earlier in the day.
Escalation of violence is in part egged on by the media—news which circles around repeating itself like an earworm (a song in the head which doesn’t stop). Media outlets use sensationalism to drive viewers and clicks online in order to beat out the competitor and raise advertising revenue.
Social media is another avenue of escalation—videoed homicides, suicides, threats, bullying, even online harassment between neighbors.
Today’s stressors coming through these mediums ramp up community anxiety, person by person: racial tensions, war and rumors of war, cultural shifting in values and morals, the stock market, hurricanes, volcanos, Ebola, politics, etc…
In both cases, what was initially meant for good—news, media, talk shows and social media, have turned sour and bitter. In many cases, it has caused us to hate each other.
There are also homegrown stressors affecting families: mental illness (1 in 5 will experience one), cancer and other illnesses, rising autism rates, cost of food and medicine, access to medical care, debt, crime, work, aging, divorce, housing needs, domestic violence and abuse, etc..
Cumulatively, these outside and inside stressors affect individuals, families, homes. Scott Armstrong, President and CEO of The Bridge Effect Foundation says, “Children are the stress indicators of what’s happening in a community.”
Armstrong is creating TensionTrac which will map a community’s tension levels based on consistent locally collected data. It will check how much serious crisis events affect a community. Government intervention resources will be given the data about specific hot-spots and crisis de-escalation can begin.
Similar types of TensionTracs have been used successfully in Wales to cut down soccer fan violence and by Yale University identifying what people believe about climate change.
Cindy Bridges, Director of Child and Family Initiatives at TBEF states, “What’s not measured can’t be managed.”
Scott Armstrong has a Masters in Quality Systems Management and is a Lean Six Sigma Blackbelt, this is not judo or karate, but a high-level certification of a professional who leads improvement projects.
Begun in 2016, The Bridge Effect Foundation (TBEF) has de-escalation specialists in place. Director of Community Outreach, Robert Campbell, already offers a free program to teach crisis de-escalation skills to caregivers for emotionally volatile adults and children thus avoiding incidents with emergency responders. “The Bridge Effect has identified serious training gaps in law enforcement, nursing and emergency healthcare skills training,” he states.
Incidents like the Sandy Hook Elementary and Parkland shootings impacted Scott Armstrong as the father of an 11-year-old girl. He adds, “I can only imagine their families’ eternal regret. We must all do what we can to prevent these horrible episodes from reoccurring in our communities.” Scott Armstrong began (TBEF) after working in the mental health industry and noticing many gaps--holes where service didn’t get to the person who needed it most.
Armstrong decided to make a difference in the world in a new way, by doing something that mattered. Scott, James Lamb, and Cindy Bridges are working together with an advisory board and a team of volunteers to raise funds to open a Center for the Arts where at risk children may come and participate free of charge. Early intervention is key. Problems left unattended worsen. Mr. Armstrong states that these problems create overwhelming anxiety, an inability to communicate to teachers and police, thus feeling the need to lash out and resort to violence.
Teaching a child a performance art builds self-confidence without the need to have a gun and assert himself over others. Use of the Arts relieves stress, irritability, helplessness, anger and frustration in a fun way that is beneficial to a child’s future. Arts are also a means of speaking out about the hurt experienced in childhood from neglect, abuse, abandonment, and emotional needs not met. TBEF plans to begin with two areas of performance art and add from there.
Mr. Armstrong has already been in talks with the city of Fort Pierce, the mayor of Port St. Lucie and other government officials regarding the use of a building to house the center.
Scott Armstrong works with the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center population in Indiantown, one of only two maximum security facilities in the State of Florida for those incompetent to stand trial by reason of insanity. With more than 200 beds, the facility is always near capacity. His job is to oversee improvement of services to the standard of the Department of Children and Families and Forensic Department of Justice.*
He sees the result of untreated mental health illnesses and understands how the crimes these individuals committed could have been headed off with early childhood intervention. Today’s shooters were yesterday’s children.
Scott Armstrong is not paid by his foundation, neither is anyone else. All are volunteers seeking to help children.
It is imperative that the signs of potential violence, known as leakage, be understood, discussed and given attention before an incident. Lives are at stake.
Prevention, the FBI states, is not and cannot be a passive process. It needs strong and ongoing commitment by the community. This includes the adoption of programs and policy “to support targeted violence prevention efforts,” building of threat assessment teams, and education. Everyone must be on board.
TensionTrac is the first of its kind, no other exists like the one Scott Armstrong is creating for monitoring community tension. Mr. Armstrong and his team have devoted their time and money to this community-driven purpose for the sake of saving lives. Maybe even your kid’s. Won’t you support him and The Bridge Effect Foundation, filling the gaps, finding the kids, keeping us safe. I do.
Contact Scott Armstrong: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
*Mr. Armstrong’s comments on this site are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Correct Care, LLC.
© 2018 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org