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Crisis Response

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Students in a high school science class are excited about their upcoming class project in the school pool. The teacher has emailed the parents, sharing details about the project, but no permission forms to participate are sent home.

Sheriff’s deputies escort T.J. Lane to his court arraignment in Chardon, Ohio on June 8, 2012. Lane pleaded not guilty to six charges for an alleged shooting at Chardon High School in February that left three students dead and three wounded.

I have been involved in the aftermath of 13 school shootings. Throughout my years of professional experience, I have stayed abreast with the latest research and literature. My hope is to help dispel the common assumptions associated with school shootings. After learning of my experiences, people often say to me, “School shootings today are increasing, and they are happening everywhere.” Although this assumption has been reinforced by the media, school shootings are actually very rare, and schools remain among the safest places for children.

Data from the 2007 WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for 13- to 18-year-olds in the United States, with motor vehicle accidents accounting for approximately 70 percent of deaths. In total, 3,733 teens died in the year 2007 from motor-vehicle-related accidents.

Scenario 1: A middle school student was continually harassed and bullied at school. He was taunted and pushed in the hallways and was even punched in the face in the school bathroom on one occasion. His tormentors always seemed to know when the adults at school were not looking. He felt that if he fought back it would only make things worse. He had debated many times telling the teacher or an administrator about the bullying, but, again, he felt that it would only get worse. Besides, he did not feel a close connection to any school staff member.

The tornado struck the small southern town three weeks before schools were to end for the year. Eighteen people were killed, and the damage to property was extensive. All three schools were affected, and the high school was nearly destroyed. Numerous staff members at the high school lost their homes and needed time to put their lives back in order. School leaders initially considered ending the year early for the high school. Would that have been the best decision for students?

The suicide of the 10th-grader sent shock waves through the middle school, but after a few months, almost all students and staff had moved on. The principal had heard through the grapevine that the parents blamed the school, but he had no idea that the school was going to be sued. The lawsuit specifically named the principal, coach and a teacher the parents believed had failed to stop the bullying of their child at school. The parents claimed that they had told school officials of their concerns about their child being victimized and that nothing had been done.

Emily is an intelligent, well-rounded high school student. She is in advanced classes and is president of the student government and captain of the cheerleading squad. She has many friends and has a job to help her parents, who are struggling financially. Emily is stressed from balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities and a time consuming job.

Recently a student named Michael returned from his freshman year at college to visit the principal at his former high school. He is majoring in engineering and is president of the student council at his college. During the summer, he plans to enroll as a mentor for children at a local Boys and Girls Club. By all accounts, Michael is a shining example of academic success and of positive student leadership. To his former principal, Michael's success is particularly meaningful.

The bus driver overheard a middle school student say as he was walking off the bus at the end of the day, "I am going to get several of you tomorrow on the bus and blow you away for making fun of me."

Sara, a high school student, logs in to her Facebook account only to be confronted with cruel and nasty remarks posted by classmates. She feels angry, humiliated, and afraid that everyone at school will see such postings. Sara has become the target of cyberbullying, and ensuing incidences occur. Consequently, her grades begin to drop, she becomes preoccupied with correspondences on Facebook, and she experiences intense anxiety about attending school.

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