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Students who feel safe at school are much more likely to succeed in all aspects of their life not just in their academics.

Our student's emotional and physical health and learning are interconnected. It's important that we do everything we can to increase the students - as well as the teacher and faculty's - feelings of safety at school.

First and foremost, children who feel safe at school tend to go to school more often.

They have fewer physical ailments that keep them home sick, and they have less anxiety and depression about going to school. Then once they're at school, they’re able to focus on the lessons that are being taught without as much distractibility or anxiety or worry about forms of violence that might occur in the school setting. Students who feel safe can more easily let their guard down and socially relate to others and form connections that further improve their enjoyment of school and learning and extracurricular activities.

Knowing that there are so many law-enforcement and academic professionals working to create physical safety for our children, for me as a psychologist and mental health professional, the question becomes how can we create Psychological and emotional safety for our children?

We as parents, caregivers, staff members, teachers, administrators and law-enforcement officials need to be on the same team. We must understand, appreciate and support our administrators and our law-enforcement officials who are working overtime to use the most current research and cutting-edge technology and training available to us with one goal in mind: to keep our children safe.

Everyone involved has the same mission - keep our children safe. Our communities has suffered and knows the pain of violence in our schools - losing precious children and teachers. "Having consulted with several school districts and law-enforcement agencies over the past several years, I believe they are committed to violence prevention and rapid response."

"As a parent myself, I believe one of the most calming and influential things I can do for my children as they prepare to return to school is to convey my trust for their administrators and SROs who are working and training so diligently to protect them."

Parents and caregiver should be having conversations with their children every day.

And if you realize that you are not doing this, just start today. Even if it's a little awkward, in a week, it will be less awkward. And in two weeks, it will be smooth for you both. By talking to our children for 5 to 10 minutes a day about simple things and asking questions like how was your day, what's on your mind, and sharing with them how you're feeling or what is going on in your life, we are creating normalcy and comfortability. When difficult topics arise that we need to discuss or our children need to discuss with us, the lines of communication are already open, and paved, and the stage is already set.

School shootings are making a lot of parents very anxious, and rightfully so. Parents are sometimes more worried about it than even children are. But children pick up on parent’s fears. So, it's important that we can manage our own anxiety so we are able to help manage theirs.

People who hurt themselves or others often show warning signs before they carry out an act of violence. In about four out of five school shootings at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it.

Some of the potential warning signs that a person might be in crisis or need help include:

  • Withdrawing from friends or family or activities
  • Bullying other people especially in terms of differences in race religion gender or sexual orientation
  • Excessive irritability, lack of patients, becoming angry very quickly
  • Expressing chronic loneliness or social isolation
  • Expressing persistent thoughts of harming themselves or someone else
  • Making direct threats toward a place, another person, or themselves,
  • Bragging about access to guns or weapon
  • Recruiting accomplices and audiences for an attack
  • Directly expressing a threat as a plan

Don't be afraid to talk to your children about concerns they may have about safety in their school. Let them know they can talk to you or their teachers or a counselor if they feel overwhelmed. They can follow all the safety protocols in their school, and report anyone that makes them feel unsafe.

Dr. Dana Watson
VP of Quality Assurance, CHE Behavioral Health Services