DODGE COUNTY -- The Dodge County sheriff is calling on parents to step up in the wake of the Florida school shooting and threats of violence at schools across the country.
Reflecting on report after report of threats of violence targeting schools in southeastern Wisconsin, Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said the current conversations surrounding the fallout from the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida lack any real solutions.
"Guns are the topic about what's going to happen today. That's the quick and easy fix. The quick and easy fix is never something that's going to solve the problem long-term," said Schmidt.
In a column, Sheriff Schmidt said instead, the conversation needs to focus on how society got to this point in the first place.
"Children need to cope and deal with conflict and disappointment," said Schmidt. "I think that's being lost by today's students and without the parental guidance on how to cope with disappointment and conflict, they find their own ways to cope and that isn't always healthy and that can be dangerous."
Schmidt urged parents to keep better tabs on their children's activities and teach them to respect authority.
"They need to understand that it's OK to discipline their children as long as it's not abusive. Parents can't be Monday morning quarterbacking their teachers when their teachers are trying to discipline children," Schmidt said.
While Schmidt acknowledges these steps are easier said than done, he has plans to work with local schools to get the message across.
"We need to get back to some of the core family values that we saw 20-30 years ago," Schmidt said.
Sheriff Schmidt also blames cellphones for hindering young people's abilities to interact with others in an appropriate way.
Schmidt noted in his column "my point in writing this is not to place blame, but rather to start conversations on what truly is the root cause of violence in society." He said there is "no quick and easy solution" to preventing mass shootings and violence.
Below is Sheriff Schmidt's complete column:
"Following every mass killing, I ask myself, what has happened to our society? I also wonder what the solution is to ensure our families do not become future victims.
Many have pointed out that years ago, people would go to school and have hunting rifles in their vehicles. Yet, mass violence in schools and other locations did not happen as in society today. It makes me think that there must be a root cause that we are not addressing that has led to this change.
So what has changed and more importantly how do we fix it? Media reports of school walk-outs and gun control discussions are becoming more prevalent than ever, all in an effort to find a quick and easy solution. I think it is safe to say that there is no quick and easy solution.
I think perhaps we are not evaluating the true root cause which is obviously very complex. We must make efforts to change our society as a whole. It’s my belief that the root cause starts with our youth lacking basic skills including respect for authority figures like parents and teachers, the ability to cope with conflict and the ability to handle rejection. Further issues like mental health and alcohol/drug use also play a role, but column length restrictions limit my ability to cover all aspects of the root cause today.
I believe it is imperative that we raise our children in a manner that instills respect for authority. While we all love our children, we need to get back to a society of parents who expect a level of respect toward both them and others in authority, including teachers. Discipline needs to be reintegrated into our society. Parents, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t reasonably discipline your child in a non-abusive manner. Teachers need to have the support of parents when they make disciplinary decisions and parents need to resist the urge of running to the defense of their children when a teacher feels the need to discipline. It undermines their authority and will likely be treated as an example for actions toward others in authority in the future.
What about inability to cope or handle rejection? For years we have watched as competition has been replaced by participation awards that are given to make children feel good. While no one wants their child to ever be disappointed or upset, when they are young, they need to face conflict and disappointment and learn to resolve it appropriately under the guidance of adults. It is part of developing their personality and dealing with conflict in the future. When youth are not taught how to handle difficult situations, they must find their own way to cope, which without guidance may be result in unhealthy or even dangerous future behavior. I am no expert and am merely giving an opinion of what I have seen in my own experience, but I feel that my opinions have merit as I have witnessed people dealing with difficult situations at the worst times of their lives.
My point in writing this is not to place blame but rather to start conversations on what truly is the root cause of violence in society. Many have strong opinions about gun control but realistically gun control will do nothing more than place a very small band aid on a much bigger problem. It is imperative that we have serious discussions on what we can do to change the norms of our society and positively impact the decisions our youth make. It’s time to refocus our energy to affect long lasting change so that we can keep Dodge County a safe and enjoyable place to live, work and visit.
Sheriff Dale J. Schmidt"