Despite increased safety efforts, school shootings continue to happen
- Published on February 14, 2014
On Tuesday, January 21st, 2014, a gunman shot and killed another man inside the Purdue Universitys electrical engineering building. The victim was a 21-year-old senior from West Bend, Wisconsin; the suspect was a 23-year-old student at Purdue. 1
On Tuesday, January 14th, 2014, a middle school student at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico opened fire in the schools gym before classes started. Two students and one staff member were injured.22
On Monday, January 20th, 2014, a student at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, was shot by an unknown gunman while sitting in his car in the parking lot of the universitys athletic center. 3
On Monday, February 10th, 2014, a high school student was shot after classes were dismissed at Salisbury High School in Salisbury, NC. While trying to break up a fight, the 16-year-old student was shot by another teenage boy who was not a student at Salisbury High School. 4
These short stories above are just a small selection of the school shootings that have happened in this current school year. According to the US News, there were at least 24 recorded school shootings in the 2012-13 school year, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. While some schools are pushing for unconventional responses, such as arming teachers and staff, experts say schools should instead work to reinforce best practices and improve emergency response procedures, as well as coordination with law enforcement officials. Tom Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association, states that while having armed personnel in schools is something worth talking about, individuals should have a background in law enforcement or a related field, instead of being teachers and principals5
According to US Department of Education, best practices for school crises consists of prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. Collaboration among school staff and community providers is critical to all four phases. Schools should be prepared, not scared. Below these components are articulated:
- Prevention efforts create an environment in which students feel valued and empowered and support successful learning, such as access to mental health services, positive discipline, positive behavioral interventions and supports, bullying prevention, and other school safety programming.
- Preparedness activities take place before a crisis and include plans to respond to any number of potential crises or traumatic events.
- Response includes actions in the immediate and short-term aftermath of a crisis to ensure physical safety, prevent property damage, confirm details, and identify and respond to negative mental health outcomes.
- Recovery refers to the task of rebuilding and returning to normalcy or previous levels of functioning after a crisis. Recovery can take months or even years depending on a number of factors.6
A great resource for school safety training is the School Safety Advocacy Council (SSAC). The SSAC was established as a collaborative partnership between education, law enforcement and emergency first responders. The SSAC offers professional services such as safety assessments, school safety drills and exercises, and training to school personnel and law enforcement7
Another resource that is being used my many is the ALICE Training Institute. The ALICE Training Institute offers trainings to schools, universities, and places of worship, hospitals, and businesses on how to respond to an armed intruder. The acronym ALICE means: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, it is a set of strategies taught to improve survival in an armed intruder event. There is much controversy about this type of training and the controversial part about it is, counter. This component of the training teaches staff and students to fight back by throwing things at the shooter, or even swarming him. This tactic is to be used if evacuating the classroom, locking down, or barricading the room are not possible. Although it has received much scrutiny, ALICE is continuously being taught as a strategy of survival in schools today, and receiving many praises from training attendees and school corporations. 8
Mental Health in Schools:
Dr. William Dikel, a board certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, says if schools are able to address students mental health issues successfully, it is possible that they might prevent future violent acts. He also states that we need to clarify the role of schools in addressing students mental health concerns, and that school counselors, social workers and psychologists may provide counseling services, but in general, they do not provide mental health diagnostic and treatment services.
So what can schools do to address these mental health issues? Dr. William Dikel suggests that the best approach is for schools to stay out of the mental health business of diagnosing and treating students, but to play a crucial role in a continuum of collaborative services that includes parents, medical and mental health providers, community agencies and county services. Schools can build bridges to community mental health providers while maintaining firewalls to protect them from legal and financial liability.9
On December 10th 2013, Vice President Joe Biden announced that $100 Million will soon be available to increase access to mental health services and improve mental health facilities. In addition, the President has proposed an additional $130 million in his FY 2014 Budget for efforts such as helping to ensure teachers and other adults who work with youth can recognize signs of mental illness and connect children and their families to the treatment they need. 10
Local Resources for Students:
Indiana University offers Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to students who pay the IU Health Fee at low-to-no cost for services. CAPS offers multiple types of counseling for many different situations. More information is available at the website listed in the References below or by calling (812) 855-5711. 11
The Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC) has social workers at all grade levels and guidance counselors available at middle and high school levels. All students at all grade levels can access either a school social worker or guidance counselor at any time for mental health services. MCCSC also has a Safe Schools Hotline. The Safe Schools Hotline is a confidential means of reporting unsafe conditions that could harm students, staff or the school. The number to call is (812) 330-2494.
Project Safe Place is another program that the MCCSC participates in, it is a new project through the National Safe Place program to help teens connect to a Safe Place location. Youth in crisis can text the word SAFE and their current location to the number 69866 and they will receive an address of the nearest Safe Place site and contact number for the local youth shelter. In cities that don't have a Safe Place program, the youth will receive the name and number of the youth shelter or, if there is no local shelter, the National Runaway Switchboard Hotline Number (1-800-RUNAWAY).12
- Purdue: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/21/justice/purdue-shooting-report/
- Berrendo Middle School: http://www.timesdaily.com/news/top_news_rotator/article_6652f2ce-7d46-11e3-b10a-001a4bcf6878.html
- Widener University: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/01/21/shooting-reported-on-campus-widener-university-in-pennsylvania/
- Salisbury High School: http://www.wbtv.com/story/24683911/student-shot-at-salisbury-high-school
- How schools are working to prevent school shootings: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/15/how-schools-are-working-to-prevent-school-shootings
- Responding to the unthinkable, School crisis response and recovery By Katherine C. Cowan and Eric Rossen
- School Safety Advocacy Council: http://schoolsafety911.org/training.html
- ALICE Institute: http://www.alicetraining.com/about-us.aspx
- School Shootings and Student Mental Health - What Lies Beneath the Tip of the Iceberg By William Dikel
- Mental Health funding: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/10/vice-president-biden-announces-100-million-increase-access-mental-health
- IU CAPS: http://healthcenter.indiana.edu/counseling/
- Becky Rose, MSW, LCSW, Director of Student Services, Monroe County Community School Corporation