Patricia Charles, Superintendent
To guide parents through difficult discussions about school violence, the National Mental Health Association offers the following suggestions:
*Encourage children to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings. Some children may be hesitant to initiate such conversation, so you may want to prompt them by asking if they feel safe at school. When talking with younger children remember to talk on their level. For example, they may not understand the term “violence” but can talk to you about being afraid.
* Talk honestly about your own feelings regarding school violence. It is important for children to recognize they are not dealing with their fears alone.
* Validate the child’s feelings. Do not minimize a child’s concerns. Let him/her know that serious school violence is not common, which is why these incidents attract so much media attention.
*Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school. Explain why visitors sign in at the principal’s office or certain doors remain locked during the school day. Help your child understand that such precautions are in place to ensure his or her safety and stress the importance of adhering to school rules and policies.
*Create safety plans with your child. Help identify which adults (a friendly secretary, trusted teacher or approachable administrator) your child can talk to if they feel threatened at school.
*Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school. Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn, or allow their school performance to decline.
*Keep the dialogue going and make school safety a common topic in family discussions rather than just a response to an immediate crisis. Open dialogue will encourage children to share their concerns.
* If you are worried about your child's reaction contact the school or a mental health professional.
Source: National Mental Health Association