Tyler Titus talks tragedy following recent violence

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 28th, 2018 at 6:06 PM

Tyler Titus, member of the Erie City School Board and therapist at Harborcreek Youth Services, spoke on trauma and its effects on school violence at Edinboro on March 20. Titus, the first openly transgender individual to be elected to a public office in the state of Pennsylvania, was invited to speak by the university president’s LGBTQIA+ commission. 

“So to really understand what’s going on with school shooters, we have to realize that they are bred at home. We keep trying to blame the school or etc., but this starts way before any of that mattered,” Titus explained as he began his talk.  

Titus’ speech, which took place just hours after a school shooting occurred in Maryland, and an hour after the rally against school violence on the Edinboro University grounds, had audience members responding actively to the questions Titus posed. The talk had a local focus. 

“Erie is the perfect little hub for bad things to happen,” Titus said.  

According to Titus, because of Erie’s position, nestled between two major interstates (I-79 and I-90), it is hard to track illegal gun sales because dealers can come and be miles away before police are alerted. 

The question, Titus explained, is what differentiates a kid with trauma from kids who go on to become school shooters? 

“When you start profiling shooters, some of the things that you see are low tolerance for frustration, poor coping skills, poor relations with peers, depression, isolation, mistrust, etc. That sounds like a diagnosis of PTSD.”  

Titus continued: “Erie has about 16 schools; that’s about 11,000 students. We spend just under $4.5 million on investigating child abuse. That means about a third of the students are going through this.” 

Titus then explained that there can be multiple steps to school violence. The first listed was the absence of safe spaces with faculty or trained therapists, because these trauma-suffering kids need to feel that someone is listening to them. And if they don’t find these spaces, Titus theorized, they could go online and find extremists who damage their idea of right and wrong.  

“One of the things that we’re finding is that it’s not just trauma and mental health that affects the students, it’s the mental health issues compounded with lack of personal resources in your immediate environment.” 

Access to guns, Titus said, is another major component of the debate. 

“Pennsylvania has too many loopholes when it comes to the basic level of the background check. And when the guns are bought from private vendors or institutions.”  

Titus believes that the solution to school violence is already present, but it depends on school boards and university directors to implement them at their institutions.  

“We need to be implementing the ACES survey from kindergarten so that we are equipping kids with the vocabulary they need to identify if something is wrong.” 

ACES, which stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, can be altered to exclude the complex vocabulary aimed at adults and altered to be simple enough for a child to understand. The survey is gaining some popularity in the medical field where healthcare providers can offer it at yearly wellness check-ups.   

“19 experts on school violence got together and published an action plan that has been endorsed by nearly 4,000 schools, institutions and the workforce,” Titus said. According to Titus, this action plan is the solution to stopping school violence.  

The plan includes seven steps separated into levels based on how much time it would take for institutions to establish them. 

The three steps at the first level, or steps that can be immediately implemented by institutions, are to ban assault rifles, assess school climate and make efforts to decrease bullying and discrimination, and to increase the number of personnel who are trained to treat and interact with traumatized children. 

The second level, steps that might take a year or two to implement, is to reform discipline practices, to have universal background checks, and to implement national and state programs to train teachers to identify traumatized kids and violent behavior at their schools. 

The third level consists of one step. It involves creating a system of interconnected records on a child that can be viewed by teachers, doctors and police officers so that everyone within a child’s network can be alerted of what they are experiencing. 

Titus’ discussion concluded with a Q&A session, opening the talk to the crowd. 

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