I remember September 11, 2001 very vividly.
I went to high school in Washington D.C. and was in my second period Spanish class when my personal cell phone began vibrating.
I ignored the it for fear of getting into trouble and then heard my name over the PA system requesting that I report to student services immediately. My mother was on the phone and told me about what was going on. The World Trade Center had been hit by two planes and another had crashed into the Pentagon.
No one knew what was going on, she explained, and encouraged me to grab my friends, pack them into the car, and get out of the city.
Everyone was in panic as information was scarce but we made it out due to effective communication with each other and our families in a time of crisis. We didn’t have a plan in place at the time, but given recent events, every student and every family really should create and have a plan in the event of a crisis at school.
Recently, the news has been dominated by the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
It is a sad state of affairs that we need to talk about this but it is absolutely necessary at this point.
Students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School showed incredible courage by working together and protecting each other from a deranged individual with firearms.
As the Parkland tragedy unfolded, no one there knew or understood what was happening and parents panicked over the safety of their children.
In the aftermath of this horrific event, statistics show that school-aged children and adolescents are seeking mental health treatment in record numbers.
Closer to home, a Parkland-like event could have become a reality in Fairfax County.
Days after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there were violent threats made about a Fairfax High School resulting in widespread panic throughout the area.
Clearly, unfortunate incidents like these have become all too real today.
Moving forward, it is imperative that each student have a plan for checking in with their parents if they feel unsafe, have a plan of action if they are in danger, and a plan to heal and recover from a traumatic event.
Today, more school aged children and adolescents have cell phones than ever before. In previous posts, we have talked about the dangers of smart phones but now we will talk about the benefits. Use the cell phones to check in with each other. Students, respond promptly to texts from your parents and if you see something concerning and do no feel safe, SAY SOMETHING. Parents, check in with your children but be brief! Also, have your children turn on their location services. This way, if you cannot reach them, you can at least locate them.
If students feel unsafe at school, they must say something. If something were to happen, faculty and staff need as much information as possible to effectively intervene before a crisis ensues. If someone is saying things that raise concern, it is a call for help. Treat it seriously. If something does happen, follow directions and have a plan to touch base with friends and family to let them know that you are safe.
Traumatic events such as the shooting in Parkland, FL takes time to recover from. For some time students will associate school with violence and the loss of life. Parents, faculty, and mental health professionals must be ready to aid in the recovery effort. All have the ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for any student struggling with posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. Be patient, proper healing takes time and if rushed, this can be something that can impact the students for a significant amount of time. Therapy can be very powerful. Processing what occurred and developing ways to heal is necessary.
These are just a few ways to plan ahead.
I pray that the Parkland shooting is the last in our history but we must prepare to protect and support our nation’s youth.
If you or anyone close to you has been affected by a traumatic event or experience, do not suffer in silence.
Say something to someone and get help. Processing these thoughts and emotions is a pivotal step towards recovery.