By Matt Mackinder
Special to the Oxford Leader
The unspeakable tragedy that took place more than three months ago in Oxford is something no family wants to ever experience.
For Clarkston resident Jeff Chamberlain, he has started a campaign – Operation Prevent – with hopes of curbing bullying and violence that can lead to what happened November 30, 2021 at Oxford High School.
“Our mission for Operation Prevent (OP) is simple – prevent school shootings,” said Chamberlain. “The key to succeeding with our mission is to identify and prevent at an early age any issues that can cause a child to become high risk to engage in future acts of violence. Our society has been dealing with school shootings for far too long and OP offers a new approach to an old problem. If OP prevents just one of these acts of violence in the future OP will be well worth the time and effort spent.”
Chamberlain noted that the path to success of the mission is two-fold.
“First, it all starts with each individual child,” Chamberlain said. “We want to instill in the minds of every first grader in the country that they are special in their own way and as they embark into their most impressionable school years they do so with a high self-esteem and the confidence required to succeed. Secondly, building off each child’s own personal high self-worth and self-confidence they will develop the foresight and compassion to help other students develop this same feeling of positive self-worth and self-confidence.
“With these two objectives in mind, OP’s main purpose is to help identify at an early age and prevent any student from being bullied which leads to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. These traits are always in the profile of a school shooter.”
To understand Chamberlain’s passion for this movement means one must know his history.
“My wife Marnie and I have been blessed with four beautiful children, now ages 29, 28, 22, and 18,” explained Chamberlain. “Raising our children has been a joy and privilege but has come with its challenges outside the ordinary challenges of every parent.
“Our son Rob, 29, who is gay, dealt with severe bullying from a very young age which went on throughout his school years and still continues, even into adulthood. We were fortunate enough that he developed the tools to successfully deal with this negative treatment and has become an amazing adult. He is now excelling as a 911 dispatcher for a local police department.
“Our daughter Savannah, 22, who has special needs, has had her own challenges of wondering why she is different and has often expressed her desire to be normal like everyone else. Savannah has always been a bright light filled with happiness and our concern with her has always been that other children may dim that bright spirit. She has made us all better people and represents all that is good in our crazy world. Savannah is now attending and excelling in a local post-high school life skills program and is doing great.”
Chamberlain added that life has been a little less rocky “with the love and support from family and friends, and we have been fortunate that all our children are doing great.”
“Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen with children, and this can lead to a situation like the one in Oxford,” Chamberlain said. “It is believed that by the time a student hits high school, the problem has already manifested and is very difficult to correct at that point. Our objective is to identify and prevent any potential issues at an early age which is why our focus is concentrated at the first grade level. We realize there is no quick fix here and it will take patience and relentless effort over an extended period of time to affect real change.”
Last year, Chamberlain took the first steps in the Operation Prevent initiative by penning a children’s book entitled “The Dog with the Crooked Tail.”
“This book was inspired by our family dog Milo, who indeed has a crooked tail,” said Chamberlain. “The premise of the book is to instill confidence and high self-esteem into every child so they realize that everyone is special in their own way. The end of the book has two work pages. One for the child to write down why they are special in their own unique way and the second page is for them to write down how they can make others feel special in their own way. This is a book they can keep for years to come and add things they learn to those pages as they grow and mature.
“Our goal is to get this book in the hands of every first grader in the country year after year by making it a standard lesson plan for the first grade curriculum nationwide. Our efforts are starting right here in the great state of Michigan. We hope Michigan will see our vision and be recognized as the first state to join our initiative.”
That said, Chamberlain said there is a financial side to this, and he is pursuing three avenues of support for this initiative:
l A national corporate sponsor. We hope to gain the support of a national corporate partner that shares our vision and is willing to offer the public and financial commitment required to make OP a successful initiative.
l State and national government. They hope to have state and national leaders endorse this operation to the public and share the cost of this effort with a corporate sponsor.
l Local and national media endorsements. This is key. Having the power of the media behind OP will be an enormous asset to accomplish their goals.
For more information, contact Chamberlain directly at 248-403-1459 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Matt Mackinder