Dealing with large-scale tragedies at school

By Pierre LaRocco posted 02-14-2017 10:09

  
It seems like we hear about large-scale tragedies on a daily basis — from someone tragically dying at the hands of the authorities to terrorism overseas. No one seems to be safe from news like this, including our students.

We were once able to say that school is a safe place for our students, with people who care about them. It was their safe haven from everything on the outside. Well, it has been proven over and over again, that is not the case anymore as we see school violence and shootings on the rise nationwide.

With a building full of both adults and students who feel less safe, how do we then provide some healing and strategies on how to deal with our "new normal"?
As counselors, we are looked to for answers to these questions. I urge that we first look at the faculty and staff in our schools and see what sort of support they need to once again feel safe.

When we hear of school violence, we always here of the students who were harmed, and the staff who were harmed come after. We cannot provide a safe space until the ones providing that space feel safe first.

We need to have open conversations about how safe we feel our school is. And in those conversations, we must take steps to make the space feel and be safer.

After that, we need to provide supports to the staff on how to convey safe spaces. All staff members need professional developments on how to create and portray safe space.
The first place to start with this is acknowledging there is danger and quickly connecting that to what we are doing to keep everyone safe. For example, when we are having a shelter-in-place drill, we must tell the students we are doing this drill in case we have an incident. This will make the students aware that it is an important drill, but also that the school is being proactive to keep them safe.

We then need to bring in the local law enforcement to sit down with the teachers and staff to speak to them about what law enforcement is doing to keep them safe. That includes deployment plans and the officers who are on the school beat.

The next step is to have a joint meeting with the school and law enforcement for the parents to lay out the safety plan for the school. This is needed to make sure everyone — students, staff, parents, the community, and most importantly anyone thinking about perpetrating one of these heinous crimes — knows there is a plan and that the school and law enforcement are actively ready.

We learn time and again that our "new normal" is not going anywhere. All we can do is adapt and cope to learn how to live with it. If we do not prepare for the worst, what we are ignoring might knock on our door.

This is scary for all of us, but we need to make sure we do not act like it cannot happen.
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