It’s impossible to imagine the horror of a school shooting. You think about it. You train for it. But, unless you’ve been there, there’s simply no way to predict how you’d react in that moment.
It’s a grim reality—one most school leaders are, thankfully, never forced to confront. But what about the ones who are? What then?
Here’s a fact that should shock you: There have been at least 170 school shootings since 2013. If you’re doing the math, that equates to nearly one per week.
Last week’s shooting at Madison High School in Middletown, Ohio, is just the latest in a string of violent outbursts that have haunted and terrorized school communities in recent years.
Since the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, and Columbine before that, K12 school leaders have sought ways to prevent and respond to the unthinkable. Some have called for stronger gun laws. Others have shone a light on mental health issues. Still others have called for stiffer security and police in school buildings.
But there’s yet another way that schools are working to prevent violence—by attempting to stop the next school shooting before it happens.
Being there when students need you
When veteran educator Jerry Schrock launched his Blue Dot Conversations campaign a few years ago, the goal was to give students considering suicide a way to reach out for help from teachers.
The idea is simple: Participating teachers hang a blue dot outside their classroom. The dot identifies that teacher to students as someone who they can come to with personal struggles or when they feel a need to open up.
Like everybody else, Schrock says he was shocked to hear about the shooting in Middletown, not far from the Ohio high school where he teaches. Schrock told a local news outlet that he thought officials for the Madison Local School District did everything possible to keep students safe during the incident.
But the news also got him thinking: Could Blue Dot Conversations be used to help prevent future incidents at schools like Madison? Or even his own?
“We need to be able to have something that kids in our schools can say, ‘I got somebody I can go and talk to. And I can use magic words that I can have a blue dot conversation. This isn’t something that you can wait. This is something that I don’t know where else to go to,” he told a reporter for Cincinnati’s WLTW5.
Beyond the classroom
The notion of listening to students when and where they need you is an important one—and it’s not new.
Schools have offered counseling and anonymous help lines to students for years. But those services are evolving, and taking on urgency in light of recent events.
What steps does your school or district take to listen to students in crisis?
Interested in providing a safe place for students to have sensitive conversations, and to report potential threats to your schools? Check out Let’s Talk! and ask about Critical Alerts.