Talking to Your Child About School Violence
The school shootings at Columbine in 1999 shocked us as a nation and hit us where we felt most vulnerable -- our children. More recently, the shootings at Virginia Tech, which occurred in the spring of 2007 around the anniversary of Columbine, reminded us of the impact one individual can have on our feelings of safety. Incidents like these are tragic and contribute to an overall feeling of unsettledness.
While there have been several school shootings in the last 10 years, what's important to remember is that schools are safe places. Although instances of school shootings are highly publicized, they are not common events.
Schools across the country have responded to these incidents of violence with increased security measures, safety plans, and more stringent policies about weapons and threats on school campuses in order to help students and families feel safer and prevent more incidents of violence. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, violent crimes in schools decreased by 50 percent between 1992 and 2005.
Of course even a few instances of school violence can create feelings of anxiety and fear. When these events do occur, talk to your children about them. Ask them what they know, how they feel, and what they think. Talk to them about what they should do if they hear another student talking about committing a violent act, see a threat posted on a website, or see a student with a weapon. Tell them that they should take any threat seriously. Finally, let your child know that you're there to listen to them and help them if they want to talk to you about their feelings or about a concern they have with another student.