The School Shooting at Chardon High Scool

The tragic events in this small rural Northeast Ohio leads me to want to post this.  The superintendent of the Chardon School District, Joe Bergant III best expressed it when he said,”This can happen anywhere.”  My friend Dr. Steve Sroka has worked in Chardon and has posted some information which I have excerpted.

“I have spoken in this community several times over the years, and it is a quiet and friendly community. The schools are well run and the students are respectful. From all accounts at this time, the school and community response teams coordinated a textbook example on how to respond to the crisis.

Denial is still a huge issue. As the superintendent has indicated, it can happen anywhere, at any time.  In the past school violence was associated with the inner-city, now we have had violence on an American Indian Reservation, in an Amish community and in the suburban community of Columbine, Colorado.

Social media now gives more insights and quicker responses to the tragic events than do authorized officials. But confusion is often created by misinformation, rumors and conflicting information. Reliable sources lag as they sort out the details. Interviews with students, tweets and Facebook often beat the news reporters at their game. Principals hear about violence in their schools from parents who are calling with information that their kids have just texted them.  Today social media can also create problems, but it can be a powerful messenger to prevent and respond to violence.  Schools need to take advantage of social media to reach parents and the rest of their community to dispel rumors and incorrect information.

We need to put a human face on school safety. We don’t need more metal detectors, we need more student detectors.  School safety needs to be built in, not tacked on. I had the privilege of serving as Coordinator of Student Activities (COSA).  The job description was to serve as a “third ear” to listen to students.  School counselors are frequently overwhelmed by paperwork and other work like programming to give proper guidance.  I cannot believe that school systems have not set up COSA’s.  For me, for students and parents and the school, it was the best thing in preventing school violence.

A plan of action needs to be in place, practiced and proactive. Teachers and students should be trained and allowed to practice lockdown drills. Parents need a low tech and high tech communication system for responding to school emergencies. Schools need to be prepared to deal with the consequences of violence long after the incident. Grief has no specific timeline for everyone.

Parents have, because of busy schedules, become dependent on technology – cell phones, IM, and the Internet to reach their children.  The best technique is for parents to talk to their children as frequently as they possibly can.  They need to know who their children’s friends are, where they hang out, and what they did in school.

I will be delivering two workshops in Savannah Georgia’s Youth At Risk Conference about Preventing School Violence on March 6th.