In quick response to Uvalde, leaders harden schools to calm community fears
The “tranquility of school” became a nightmare in Texas on Tuesday, Pittsburgh Public Schools leaders said in locking their buildings down after the Uvalde shooting. The Pennsylvania district was on modified lockdown Wednesday, restricting visitors and canceling all outside activities—including recess—not approved by school police.
The steps taken in Pittsburgh are just one example of how countless school districts across the nation tightened security and welcomed an increased police presence in efforts to calm frightened students and staff in the wake of the Texas massacre in which 19 children were killed at Robb Elementary School. So far in 2022 alone, there have been 27 school shootings, leaving five students and one staff member dead, Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, said in a statement. “What are we telling our communities, parents, families and students when we can’t ensure their physical safety at school?” Domenech asked. “How are we going to continue the important work of academic recovery and mental health supports in response to the pandemic when we can’t reasonably ensure the core need for physical safety? It begs the very fair question, ‘Is school safety on America’s short list of priorities? If not, why not?'”
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In Wisconsin, police increased patrols at Madison City Schools “although we have not had any threats toward our schools,” Superintendent Ed Nichols said on Facebook. In Florida, Duval County Public Schools, headquartered in Jacksonville, has banned students from carrying backpacks or large handbags for the remainder of the week, Action News Jax reported. Police increased their presence at schools in cities and towns across Connecticut, the site of the nation’s worst-ever school shooting at Sandy Hook in 2012, The Hartford Courant reported. The West Hartford Police Department said on Facebook that it would increase patrols at school though officials were not aware of any threats.
“Take your heartache, your fear, your anger and sadness, and channel them into action,” Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden, co-founders and CEOs of Sandy Hook Promise, said in a statement. “We must take action today and every day until this epidemic of violence ends. Call on your elected officials to pass common sense legislation now that protects the safety and lives of children.”
Police in the districts around Washington, D.C., were also increasing their presence at schools on Wednesday. In Maryland, community engagement officers would be “continuously checking” on schools, the Montgomery County police told The Washington Post. In Colorado, police in Boulder will be spending more time at schools for the remainder of the year after discovering a threat targeting the last day of school on Thursday, the Daily Camera reported.
How to talk about Uvalde shooting
The American Psychological Association advises adults to be honest with children by acknowledging that bad things happen but also reassuring them that many people are trying to keep them safe, The San Diego County Office of Education says on its website. The agency has compiled multiple resources for discussing the shooting in Uvalde with their students:
- The National Association of School Psychologists recommends that educators make time to talk and listen to the concerns of children, try to create a sense of safety by returning to normal routines as soon as possible, and limit media consumption to lower stress.
- The American Psychological Association encourages adults to seek support from friends or professionals, honor their own feelings by taking time for themselves, and find more ways to serve their communities.
- Common Sense Media offers guidance on age-appropriate ways to talk to kids about school shootings and help them feel safe.
- Very Well Family provides open-ended questions to discuss school shootings with children.
“Our students want and need to talk about what they see, remember, and are feeling now; they need the guidance and safety of adults in their lives to be able to navigate their own emotions and trauma in a healthy, safe, and productive way,” the San Diego County Office of Education says on its website. “Adults need to be able to acknowledge and address their own emotional responses in order to best support young people.”