Effects of School Shootings

Jonesboro, Littleton, West Paducah, Springfield, and Newtown are just a few of the locations that have fallen victim to the tragedy of school shootings. Less than 1% of youth homicides take place in a school setting (Daniels, Bradley, & Hays, 2007). However, one life lost is one too many. School shootings affect children, teachers, and other school staff members. The effects are numerous and can be long-term.

Witnessing a school shooting can have emotional, psychological, and physical effects. These effects include nightmares, resisting the return to school, headaches, stomach problems, and sleeping problems (Sweet, nd). The American Psychological Association reports other symptoms such as a change in a child’s school performance, changes in relationships with friends and teachers, anxiety, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed (APA, 2014). Beland & Kim (2014) found that schools that experience shootings have a decline in grade nine enrollment, and that math and English test rates dropped. Students who have witnessed violent crimes also show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (Beland & Kim, 2014).

Children are not the only ones affected by school shootings. School personnel can develop psychological problems. After the Dawson College shooting, results from a study that included students, faculty and staff showed that college support staff members were overlooked and their psychological damage was underestimated (Medical News Today, 2009). Teachers who have witnessed a school shooting suffer from effects including post-traumatic stress disorder, divorce, and burnout (Daniels, Bradley, & Hays, 2007). Post-traumatic stress disorder can result in teachers becoming withdrawn and emotionally unstable, and teacher absenteeism can increase (CNN.com, 2013). Teachers do not feel safe at school and they feel they lack support from the educational system (Daniels, Bradley, & Hays, 2007).

There are individuals who think arming teachers and other school staff is the answer. Some people prefer hiring armed guards with a background in law enforcement. There is no easy solution, but parents can steps to help keep their children safe.  In order to prepare a child for a school shooting, parents can talk to them about what to do. Discussing the actions to take in case of a school shooting might give the child a better sense of security. Teaching a child how to stay safe by hiding under a desk, calling 911, and locking the door to the classroom are all things that a child can do to lower the chance of being hurt. Schools can help by having safety drills and asking law enforcement officers to talk to students about ways to remain safe. According to CNN.com (2009), some states now require schools to have lockdown drills. However, it is a fine line between preparing a child for possible violence, and frightening the child. Having a child psychologist available at school might help with any anxiety caused by discussions of a possible school shooting. Children, as well as adults, should not have to deal with such a horrible issue, but being prepared could mean the difference between being a survivor and being a statistic.

References:

After school violence, traumatized teachers need help. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/23/opinion/mooney-teacher-shooting/index.html.

Columbine massacre changed school security. (2009). Retrieved from: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/04/20/columbine.school.safety/index.html.

Daniels, J. A., Bradley, M. C., & Hays, M. (2007). The impact of school violence on school personnel: Implications for psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38(6), 652-659. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0735-7028.38.6.652

Beland, L. & Kim, D. (2014). The effect of high school shootings o schools and student performance. Retrieved from: http://www.econ.illinois.edu/~dongwookim/LPB_DK_shootings_Dec2013.pdf.

Study on psychological impact of mass shootings. (2009, June 30). Medical News Today. Retrieved from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/155824.php.

Sweet, K. (nd). Psychological effects of a school shooting. Retrieved from: http://www.ehow.co.uk/info_8132098_psychological-effects-school-shooting.html.

Talking to your children about the recent spate of school shootings. (2014). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/school-shooting.aspx.

2 comments

  1. Coming from a very small school ( we graduated 35 my senior year) and being from the north it would seem really unlikely for our school to let the teachers be armed and/or have police officers and security guards at our school. Never would we expect something like a school shooting to happen, but in the case that there would be one I know the school would be very unprepared. After recent school shootings took place I asked myself what would be the best way to make these shooting stop.
    Making schools have metal detectors and have their lockers and backpacks checked seems like a good idea but is it really the best idea? I personally would not have agreed with that in high school. Like I said we were a very small school and we were a really little suburb. When we would go to inner city schools to play sports we felt out of place, uncomfortable, and violated due to everything we had to go through just to enter their facilities. I remember we once played at one of these schools and as their students went through metal detectors we walked around them until we were stopped because it was foreign to something we would do. Later when we were going to leave for our bus cops locked us and our parents in the gym because there was a knife fight outside. All of us were so scared and realized how lucky we were to come from where we came from. However just because we were from a small school does not mean we could never experience someone bringing a gun to school. There was a time that someone had said someone else brought one and we were locked in our class and the cops came to check every thing out but I believe the person was just saying threats. This was scary enough for me to second guess on if I really want my kids to go to school when I could always homeschool them and keep them safe. If threats can scare me that much I can only imagine what the actual effects would be of being involved first hand in a school shooting.
    It is sickening to think that places that children should be protected are actually putting them at risk. However they are not just at risk for school shootings and violent behavior, they are also learning things from other students that they might not have the chance at learning at home. I believe the first step in protecting children is making them informed on what to do if a situation occurs. I also believe that if we take initiative in what our students learn at school we can reduce what will stick with them and what will not. If a kid goes to school and learns about sex from another student its the parents job to then teach them the correct thinking about it and not let them learn the wrong thing from friends. Just like if a kid learns about guns from their friend and is given the perception that they are used for fun then the parents need to have the kid understand how serious guns are and that they should be used in certain ways and not for fun.
    I have always thought another unique way to stop school shootings could be hire veterans to patrol schools. I am sure that retired veterans would love to continue to protect and what better to do than protect their youth. Instead of letting veterans become homeless, give them opportunities like this to do what they love to do. I could see this being just as effective, if not more effective, as having security guards at schools. Veterans have knowledge of guns and what to do in situations that most people would not stay calm during. I know even though I came from where I did, most of the students and parents would agree to something like this and they would see the benefits from this.

  2. I was a junior in high school when the Jonesboro school shooting took place and I was a senior when the Columbine school shooting happened. The one in Jonesboro rocked our school pretty hard, because I too attended school in Arkansas. I remember after the Jonesboro shooting that new policies were implemented in our school, but the following year, after the Columbine school shooting, our whole experience of school changed. After the first shooting our high school held large community meetings with parents, teachers, and students in an effort to formulate ways in which to keep our schools safe. For a few months we had parents (mine included) who were police officers work at the school in their off time just to be seen. This was pointless and didn’t really change anything. For a few months, the staff of the school tried to make us carry clear backpacks – that too was an epic failure; we weren’t about to carry around gaudy looking clear backpacks. Our school also enacted a closed campus policy that prohibited students from leaving campus during school hours. This too backfired as those of us who had good grades were allowed to leave campus from lunch. This caused a “sit in” by over half of the student body and the campus was soon reopened. After all of these failed attempts, school just gave up and let us live out the rest of the year just like we had for the previous few years and it was uneventful. After all, as we all thought, this wasn’t going to happen to a small town school like ours.

    The next year, about 3 or 4 weeks before graduation, as we were watching “Channel 1” – which was a program we were required to watch for the first twenty or so minutes of school each day and again after lunch – we were notified of the Columbine school shooting. This time our school was going to implement something to keep guns out of our school. If I remember correctly, the Columbine shooting occurred on a Tuesday because our school was dismissed for the remainder of the week. Upon our return, there were metal detectors placed at all four entrances, a state of the art video surveillance system installed on every inch of campus, and weekly locker inspections. While the intentions of the staff were good, the implementation of the security measures made more parents (and students) feel violated, criminalized, and frustrated – not safer. Our view was that we weren’t the ones shooting each other, why should we have our lives turned upside down just because some other kids lost their patience and open fired. When my high school made attempts to “protect us” and “keep our school gun free” all they did was frustrate us, make us feel like criminals and anger our parents. Our school was already safe, and yet we were being treated like convicts.

    I understand the worry that comes along with school shootings, after all, school is the one place that we should feel safe sending our children. It should be the second safest place for kids to be next to their homes. But is it really? Think about it, schools are where kids learn many things from deviant behavior from their peers, this is where most of them are introduced to drugs, alcohol, and sex – by way of their peers, this is where they are bullied, mistreated, neglected, compared, ridiculed… you name it and it most likely originated from school. Think back to your own experiences at school. If you do I bet you can each come up with at least one (though probably several) negative experience that you first encountered at school. Don’t misunderstand me, I absolutely think that school officials should do everything in their power to keep guns out of schools, but in the grand scheme of things, school shootings are rare. There are many more accounts of suicide because of bullying, eating disorders and drug abuse, and outright discrimination and hate crimes that occur at schools across the nation on a daily basis. School shootings are publicized in the media much more, are more widely known, and tend to stick out in your mind, but it is not the most pressing issue that takes place in our school systems. It is difficult to prepare a student body and an administration of teachers to prepare for an incident that is unlikely to occur (like a school shooting) especially because depending on the part of the country where you live, the opinions on how to protect schools will vary greatly. Here in the south, we think our teachers should be armed. But in other parts of the country, that is a resounding NO. The parents of the Columbine shooters had no idea that their boys were planning the shootout, ask them and they were clueless. I however, after researching the case for a prior class tend to disagree, but when it comes down to brass tacks, like I have said before, the best way to combat violence in schools – any violence – is for parents to take on an active role in their child’s lives and notice warning signs, for teachers to be trained to notice behavior that is out of character, and students to be taught how to treat their fellow peers. If we could take this approach to our younger generations, then perhaps there would be less need to train school officials and students on how to react in a time of crisis like a school shooting.

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