Advice from America’s Most Trusted Principal
Dealing with school violence
In the Aftermath of the Tacoma School Shooting: Tips and Tools to Deal with Crisis
In a 2001 survey of high school students, 17.4% had carried a weapon to school during the 30 days preceding the survey (Graunbaum Ja. Kannl. Kinchen SA. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance United Sates 2001, In Surveillance Summaries, June 28, 2002).
Fox News Channel’s school safety expert, Cheli Cerra, M.Ed., offers these tips:
What should the school do after a crisis:
1. Provide a safe environment outside of the child's classroom with grief counselors where kids can talk and express their emotions.
2. Principals and teachers need to reassure children of their safety and security and try to keep to a normal schedule and routine as soon as possible.
3. Provide counseling on an on-going basis to those children that need that help and support.
What parents can do after a crisis:
1. Listen and talk (age appropriately). With small children tell facts as simple as possible and do not go into specific details. If you have questions – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
2. School-aged children will ask, "Can this happen here, or to me?" Do not lie to children. Share that it is unlikely that anything like this will happen to them or in their community. Then reiterate how the community is focused on working to keep everyone safe in the community.
3. Do not let children watch TV and radio of the events of the crisis. Personal discussions are the best way to share information. Be prepared to discuss the event over the coming weeks
4. When discussing the events with preteens and teens, more detail is appropriate, and many will already have seen news broadcasts. Do not let them focus too much on graphic details. Rather, elicit their feelings and concerns and focus your discussions on what they share with you. Be careful of how much media they are exposed to. Talk directly with them about the tragedy and answer their questions truthfully.
5. Be on the lookout for physical symptoms of anxiety that children may demonstrate. They may be a sign that a child, although not directly discussing the tragedy, is very troubled by the recent events. Talk more directly to children who exhibit these signs:
§ Excessive worry
§ Stomach aches
§ Increased arguing
§ Back aches
§ Trouble sleeping or eating
§ Loss of concentration
§ Refusal to go to school
§ Clinging behavior
6. Parents and caregivers should often reassure children that they will be protected and kept safe. During tragedies like these, words expressing safety and reassurance with concrete plans should be discussed and agreed upon within the family and can provide the most comfort to children and teens.
What should the school do to prevent a crisis:
1. Provide anonymous ways for kids to inform school officials and or police of possible situations.
2. Deal with bullying and provide peer mediation to all parties involved.
3. Provide stress and anger management programs as part of the school curriculum.
What parents can do to help prevent a crisis:
1.Talk to child daily and listen to any concerns about school or school safety.
2. Go to www.eduville.com and take the safety quiz: Find out if your school has a safety plan and a crisis plan.
3. Become a member of the PTA/PTO -- get involved.
4. Talk to school counselor about getting outside help and resources for a child if they have stress or depression problems.