On February 27, five high school students were shot when a classmate started firing in their school cafeteria in Chardon, a small community in Ohio. The alleged shooter is now in custody. Two students died, and the others were injured.
Students spent hours huddled in their locked down classrooms, texting and trying to understand what was going on. The lives of those shot and their loved ones will never be the same. And, the community is traumatized.
As one high school student asked poignantly, “WHY does this happen?”
Each time a new school shooting tragedy occurs, we adults ask ourselves the same kinds of questions, “WHY did this happen? HOW could it happen HERE? And WHAT can we do to prevent it from happening again?”
As parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caring adults, we want to know how to empower our children and our schools rather than leaving everyone feeling that stopping violence is hopeless and that they are helpless. Here are four recommendations from Kidpower:
1. Be a calm, safe person to talk to. After a frightening event, listen with empathy so that young people can talk to you about their fears without being burdened by your fears. Give them opportunities to grieve for what has happened. Acknowledge that our world is not a perfect place, but it is a wonderful place. Help kids to feel empowered by making positive changes in their own communities and schools.
2. Make sure it is “safe to tell” at school. Figure out how the school can help kids feel safe about speaking up if someone’s behavior is worrying them, without fear of retaliation, overreaction, or being discounted. Have a plan of action for how to handle the situation when they do speak up.
3. Prepare both kids and school staff with knowledge and skills. When an attack happens, your actions in a few seconds can make a huge difference. Prepare kids to run away from the shooting and get to safety if they hear or see shooting . Prepare adults to assess the situation, direct students to leave, call or text for help immediately, decide if it is the best choice to intervene with the person shooting, and figure out how to do this as safely as possible. In this shooting, it sounds like a teacher was able to take charge of the situation, very likely preventing more violence.
4. Make sure that every student has mentoring and support. Even if they have problems, young people who feel cared for and connected are far less likely to engage in violence than those who feel alienated and alone. Reach out to troubled kids. Notice and reach out to anyone who seems isolated. Address bullying and other violence immediately. Commit to creating a community of caring, respect, and safety for everyone.
For more information, see this additional Kidpower resource: Violence in Schools: Solutions for Empowering Children.
Irene van der Zande is the Executive Director and Founder of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International
To interview Irene van der Zande or invite her to speak at your event, please contact her at 1-800-467-6997 Ext. 6# or e-mail email@example.com