The fatal shooting on Wednesday at a high school in Parkland, Fla., raises fresh concerns and awareness about school safety and school culture.
"Though this tragic, senseless shooting happened in Florida, we understand that parents everywhere many be wondering what schools are doing to keep safe the children in our care," said County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. "The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is working closely with local school districts to continue our prevention, intervention, and recovery efforts."
In the aftermath of such tragedies, educators work to ensure that every measure is taken to ensure the security of their campus. In addition, they provide a safe space for their students to share their concerns, ask questions, and find answers.
The National Association of School Psychologists offers effective ways to talk with students following such a traumatic event. Schools should:
- Create a sense of safety by returning to normal, predictable routines as soon as possible.
- Listen to the concerns and feelings of their students.
- Suggest that students limit their use of media to lower their stress and to maintain balance and perspective.
- Acknowledge that sleep difficulties are common and can lead to fatigue and poor participation.
For parents, the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends honesty with their children -- acknowledging that bad things do happen, but reassure children with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers and local police. The APA also advises limiting children’s exposure to news coverage following such traumatic events. Additional guidance can be found on the association’s website.
All California public schools are required to have a comprehensive school safety plan. In addition to ensuring physical safety prevention measures, educators also emphasize the importance of positive school climate and culture in prevention.
“We need to work to build school cultures that are invested in the well-being of each member of the community,” said Bob Mueller, executive director of Student Support Services for SDCOE. “Beyond that, we need to train students and staff to recognize the warning signs that could indicate a threat of violence. We need to give students clear ways to report concerns when they see them.”
At its February meeting, which was held on the day of the shooting, the San Diego County Board of Education observed a moment of silence in observance of the victims. "It's truly sad that we have to start our meeting this way," noted County Board of Education President Guadalupe González, who also expressed her thanks for SDCOE employees' work to update school safety plans and supports.
SDCOE provides training and support related to school safety, school climate and culture, and student mental health and well-being. Learn more about student support topics here, and find the training calendar here.