Talking to students about mass shootings

Posted at 6:19 AM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 06:19:18-05

When horrific acts of violence infiltrate the news and family discussions, teachers have to prepare themselves for how to answer questions from students.

"It is always the why," said Derek Mears, a third grade teacher at the Charter School for Applied Technologies. "That's always the biggest one -- why did they do that?"

Mears explains that his answer has to be very sensitive. "I make it real to them, and say yes there are people who make poor choices and there are consequences for their actions. However, I don't want to get into too many specifics."

It's very important to watch how much and what is said around a child -- especially elementary school age. "They'll take everything in that you say, and you don't want to give them too much and you don't want to say something that's not correct."

Mears says that typically, elementary school teachers do not bring up mass shootings and acts of violence by themselves. However, if a child wishes to discuss it, they will either publicly or privately, depending on the situation. Mears says he always informs the parent.

School social worker Marie Dionne says if a child shows worry over a mass shooting, it's important to calm children's concerns they may bring up.

"It's important for children to be reassured that they're safe -- in times like this reminding them about the people in their lives that can help," Dionne said.

Dionne adds that a young child's questions about mass shootings will be based off of exposure at home.

However, high school students tend to be automatically exposed and more aware, especially with social media access on the rise. Teachers say that means it's more important now than ever for students to talk about tragic news events, whether it's with a parent or educator.

High school teacher Chris Derrick says students biggest concern is could a mass shooting or possible attack happen in western New York?

"They're asking if it's ISIS, is it the terrorists or is this the lone wolf shooter," Derrick said. "I tell them that there are bad people but for every one bad person there's a thousand good people."

Students also say it's crucial that they discuss these events with each other and at school.

"If we can talk about, we can get a better comprehension of it and understanding of it," a student with Charter School of Applied Technologies.

Fellow student DeShawn Williams added, "They don't understand why people are killing themselves, but we could change that. The new and up-and-coming age, we could change that."




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