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IMPACT OF SCHOOL CRISES

On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 more than a dozen others. The gunman was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at the school (DeMarche, 2020). He concealed himself in the crowd fleeing the school following the massacre but was later arrested in nearby Coral Springs. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and is in prison awaiting trial (DeMarche, 2020).

Just like any other crisis, school crises impact much more than the immediate victims. The Parkland shooting led to the closure of the school for several months interfering with the student’s educational progress. Additionally, a community that once felt safe now probably feels unsafe due to the shooting. According to Wike and Fraser (2009), school shootings engender deep public concern and violate strongly held cross-cultural beliefs about the sanctity of childhood and the obligation of society to protect children among others. This feeling of uncertainty causes ripple effects such as a drop in economy when investors begin to leave. Additionally, the money that has to be spent renovating the school to ensure that there are no bullet holes or blood stains when it re-opens, as well as having to increase security. Because the school had students from all walks of life, the school needed to make sure that it had multicultural responders to cater to the needs of students in a culturally competent way. This is not something that is easy to do in a crisis when there is panic (Wike & Fraser, 2009). Individuals respond differently in crisis and many of these responses are driven by cultural factors, therefore, first responders need to provide culturally competent intervention because not doing so can lead to more harm than good (Goldston, et al, 2008).

Although there is no ideal school crisis response plan or strategy that suits all the needs of all schools and school districts or students during a crisis, there some that can be effective in minimizing trauma and damage. A strategy that I might have used when responding to this crisis would be ensuring safety of the students and teachers as well as the parents. According to Motomura, et al (2003), the most important thing in a situation like this is sharing any useful information such as reassuring the victims that the person who had committed the crime was already arrested and that they were now safe. Additionally, educating the parents about the acute stress reactions of children, physical symptoms, regression and psychological symptoms after such an incident (Motomura, et al, 2003). Sometimes there is not much than can be done immediately except being there for the victims and providing as much information on what to do after the dust has settled and then following up with the victims a few days after they have been able to process the trauma or after the shock has worn off (James & Gilliland, 2017).

References:

DeMarche, E. (2020). What happened at Parkland: The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/us/what-happened-at-parkla…

Goldston, D. B., Molock, S. D., Whitbeck, L. B., Murakami, J. L., Zayas, L. H., & Hall, G. C. N. (2008). Cultural considerations in adolescent suicide prevention and psychosocial treatment. American Psychologist, 63(1), 14–31.

James, R. K., & Gilliland, B. E. (2017). Crisis intervention strategies (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Motomura, N., Iwakiri, M., Takino, Y., Shimomura, Y., & Ishibashi, M. (2003). School crisis intervention in the Ikeda incident: Organization and activity of the mental support team. Psychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 57(2), 239–240.

Wike, T. L., & Fraser, M. W. (2008). School shootings: Making sense of the senseless. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14(3), 162-169.