Mom of Sandy Hook Victim Chooses Love
Five years ago, my six-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, was shot in the forehead in his first-grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was murdered by a former student, alongside 19 of his classmates and six educators in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. The world paused collectively at the horror and as a collective, we looked to find fault, outside ourselves, and identify who we could blame.
The natural people to point the finger at are Adam Lanza, the shooter, and his mother, who armed him. This didn’t work for me, however. If it really was their fault then it would never have happened before (Virginia Tech, Columbine, Beaver Creek, etc.) and would never happen again. There has been over 220 school-related shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary (one per week) and one mass shooting a day this year. Who is going to fix this? Are we going to allow this to be our new normal?
After watching groups polarize and level the playing field in anger, I realized quickly that there was no one ‘out there’ that would provide a resolution. Not for lack of effort but if they could have they would have. Neither political party has been able to abate any of the violence, mental health issues, or substance abuse that is running rampant throughout our country. Despite their best efforts to-date, we seem to be stuck in reactivity and limited to addressing the symptoms without thought to the actual cause of these issues. The problem is that it is not political issues that are causing the disconnection, anger, lack of resilience and, ultimately, fear and pain. It is our lack of focus on educating the whole child. I was heartened following my personal tragedy to realize there is a solution and founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement.
Decades of research shows us that children who have access to this learning have less mental health issues, less violent tendencies, less incarceration, less substance abuse and healthier relationships. Children in schools have higher grades and test scores, even graduation rates!
So if we know all this, why doesn’t every child have access to social and emotional learning? This proactive and preventative approach takes courage because it is not our usual reactive programming. This learning focuses on providing skills and tools to actually prevent the issues before they arise rather than focusing on the problem.
We have developed a free, pre-K through twelfth-grade curriculum called the Choose Love Enrichment Program. The program teaches educators and their students how to choose love in any circumstance and helps them become connected, resilient, and empowered individuals. These skills, tools and attitudes have been proven through decades of scientific research to be the best way to ensure a healthy, meaningful and purpose-filled life.
Bottom line, what we’re currently doing isn’t working. We need to change and we have a solution. Change takes courage, however, and that is what we need to cultivate in our society. The courage to say, “we will not wait for someone else to fix this issue but we will take responsibility by making sure every child has SEL.
Scarlett Lewis is the author of, “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness,” and a children’s book, “Rose’s Foal”. She founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement that provides a free program that teaches educators and students the tools, skills and attitudes needed to choose love in every situation. Visit www.jesselewischooselove.org to download.