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 Post-traumatic stress disorder can result in teachers becoming withdrawn and emotionally unstable, and teacher absenteeism can increase (CNN.com, 2013).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.
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.