March 12, 2001
by Rhonda McKim
Once again the unthinkable has happened, another school shooting. It is really important that we as adults share our whole range of emotions about this incident with other adults and get our feelings out.
But most importantly, do this out of the eyes and ears of kids. For our kids we need to be the safe place for them to tell us what their reactions are, not our reactions regurgitated. The key is to listen to how they are taking this in and then reassure them. Allow your kids to go through their range of emotions.
You can include how sad and tragic this is, but most kids are going to need reassurance at this time.
Talk to them about how their school is safe and the things that are in place to keep their school safe, things like tip lines, how they practice emergency drills, violence prevention activities at their school, etc.
Remember your local crisis line is also available 24 hours a day if you need immediate assistance or reassurance.
Emphasize how they need to respond if they hear another person talking about doing something like this. Who can they confide in and explain why it's important to share this kind of information, but don't use scare tactics.
Make sure they understand that weapons are dangerous. Many kids, because of the impact of media and where they are developmently, don't realize that weapons are really dangerous. A nurse at Harborview shared that often times when kids come in with a gunshot wound, their first comment is they didn't know it would hurt. If you have weapons in your home, make sure the are securely stored.
For some kids, you will need to make a decision as to whether or not your television will be on tonight. For some kids, this will be too much for them to deal with. Take your cues from them.
Beyond the immediate work you need to do with kids, there are other things you can do.
Call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and support Safe School Bill SB 5528, HB 1444, Mental Health Coverage Bill SB5211 and HB 1080.
Safe School Bill SB 5528 and HB 1444 would require that schools put a policy in place dealing with bullying, intimidation or harassment. Mental Health Coverage Bill SB5211 and HB 1080 would expand health coverage for kids to include coverage for mental health services.
Get involved in violence prevention efforts; there are lots of opportunities. And at some point we need to bring people to the table to talk about how we keep guns out of the hands of kids who shouldn't have them.
It is our responsibility to keep kids safe. If you need more help or resources.
Our thoughts and prayers go to all those impacted by this tragedy.
Rhonda McKim is Every Teen Counts Chairperson, WSPTA.