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'Strengthening the Safety Net'



Over 20 years ago I worked with at-risk youth in Humboldt county. We had a 15-year-old youth who had attempted suicide a number of times. They were very disturbed and got into physical fights at school and with their family. Everyone in the community was involved in this case: law enforcement, probation, juvenile court, child welfare, the department of education, county mental health, CASA, and the Youth Service Bureau, the agency that I worked for. Because this case was so intense, we all had each other's phone numbers and were in constant contact with each other. This was before iPhones and social media.

One day, just before a family meeting, the youth approached a co-worker and me. They told us that none of the meetings, medications and counseling were working, and they planned to take a couple of their father's hunting rifles and shotguns to the high school and "kill some people." This was a credible threat. The youth had access to firearms and ammo and knew how to use them and they lived within walking distance to the school. Their plan was "suicide by cop." We took them to county mental health, where they were later transferred to a psychiatric hospital.

Stories like this are not uncommon but they aren't usually reported. In most school shootings, the red flags and cries for help are not heard. Once a person with a weapon enters school grounds with intent to do harm, it is already too late. Turning schools into prisons or war zones won't work either. What does work is strengthening the safety net we already have and creating a system where troubled youth have somewhere to turn, someone to talk to.

Charles Davy, Bayside

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