“Targeted violence” in school settings include school shootings as well as other school-based attacks where the school was deliberately selected as the location for the attack, not simply a random site of opportunity. Sadly, Broward County Public Schools has become a target of this form of violence. Our hearts remain with the victims and families affected by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, as our community copes with the aftermath and recovery process from this senseless act of violence. During this time of crisis, many will look for answers, questioning the why, what could have been done, and what should be done. Our department strongly encourages us to look toward the what research (Secret Service Report) has shown us works and doesn’t work (10 common myths) to guide our decision making. We also encourage everyone in our community to reach out to give help and receive help when needed.
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Support for MSD students and families: Broward County Public Schools in partnership with local and community agencies, has extended its hours to address immediate needs and provide support for those impacted by this tragedy through the Family Assistance Center (FAC). The FAC, is located at the Parkland Recreational and Enrichment Center, 10559 Trails End, Parkland, FL, 33076. The FAC is now open Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25: noon – 5 p.m. and Monday, February 26 – Friday, March 2: noon – 7 p.m. The FAC offers expanded services, including:
- Crisis Counseling
- Counseling/Spiritual Care
- Language Translation
- Referrals to community agencies
For those needing to speak with a counselor over the phone, the BCPS hotline with family counselors is available from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day at 754-321-HELP or 754-321-4357. You can also email 24/7 to [email protected], or text FL to 741741 to connect with a counselor.
The District has also created an online Crisis Support resource, www.browardschools.com/crisissupport, which includes information on receiving assistance – as well as tips for parents and families for helping their children cope with this tragedy. 211 Broward, the comprehensive helpline for crisis and health, and human services is also available 24/7 by dialing 2-1-1.
In response to the outpouring of requests from across our community and across the nation for ways to help the victims and their families, the Broward Education Foundation (BEF), the 501(c)3 which supports Broward County Public Schools, established a GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/stonemandouglasvictimsfund. In addition, if you would like to offer support services for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community, it can be submitted at browardschools.com/wesupport. In addition, the BEF has launched a mobile giving text-to-donate campaign. A text sent to “20222” with the message “PARKLAND” in all caps will forward a $10 donation to support the families and victims of this tragedy.
Too many communities have become victim to shootings in recent years. In the aftermath of these tragic events, educators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals and parents have pressed for answers to two central questions: “Could we have known that these attacks were being planned?” and, if so, “What could we have done to prevent these attacks from occurring?”
This publication, The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States, is a recent product of an ongoing collaboration between the U. S. Secret Service and the U. S. Department of Education to begin to answer these questions. It is the culmination of an extensive examination of 37 incidents of targeted school violence that occurred in the United States from December 1974 through May 2000.
Below are 10 common myths about school shootings, compiled by MSNBC.com from the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education. The researchers studied case files and other primary sources for 37 attacks by current or former students, and also interviewed 10 of the perpetrators. Learn more by viewing the Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States.
Myth No. 1. “He didn’t fit the profile.”
In fact, there is no profile. “There is no accurate or useful ‘profile’ of students who engaged in targeted school violence,” the researchers found.
The stereotypes of teens in Goth makeup or other types of dress are not useful in preventing attacks. Just as in other areas of security — workplace violence, airplane hijacking, even presidential assassination — too many innocent students will fit any profile you can come up with, and too many attackers will not.
“The demographic, personality, school history, and social characteristics of the attackers varied substantially,” the report said. Attackers were of all races and family situations, with academic achievement ranging from failing to excellent.
Most, but not all, have been male, though that fact alone doesn’t help an adult rule in or out someone as dangerous.
Myth No. 2. “He just snapped.”
Rarely were incidents of school violence sudden, impulsive acts. Attackers do not “just snap,” but progress from forming an idea, to planning an attack, to gathering weapons. This process can happen quickly, but sometimes the planning or gathering weapons are discoverable.
Although the researchers point out that there is no “type of student” who is likely to commit such violence, there are “types of behaviors” that are common to planning or carrying out the attacks. This pattern, they say, gives some hope of intervening before an attack.
Myth No. 3. “No one knew.”
Before most of the attacks, someone else knew about the idea or the plan. “In most cases, those who knew were other kids: friends, schoolmates, siblings and others. However, this information rarely made its way to an adult.” Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help.
Myth No. 4. “He hadn’t threatened anyone.”
Too much emphasis is placed on threats. Most attackers did not threaten anyone explicitly (“I’m going to kill the principal”), and most threateners don’t ever attack anyone.
But less explicit words can reveal an intention, the researchers say. A child who talks of bringing a gun to school, or being angry at teachers or classmates, can pose a threat, whether or not an explicit threat is made.
Myth No. 5. “He was a loner.”
In many cases, students were considered in the mainstream of the student population and were active in sports, school clubs or other activities.
Only one-quarter of the students hung out with a group of students considered to be part of a “fringe group.”
Myth No. 6. “He was crazy.”
Only one-third of the attackers had ever been seen by a mental health professional, and only one-fifth had been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Substance abuse problems were also not prevalent. “However, most attackers showed some history of suicidal attempts or thoughts, or a history of feeling extreme depression or desperation.” Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures.
Myth No. 7. “If only we’d had a SWAT team or metal detectors.”
Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were over well before a SWAT team could have arrived. Metal detectors have not deterred students who were committed to killing themselves and others.
Myth No. 8. “He’d never touched a gun.”
Most attackers had access to weapons, and had used them prior to the attack. Most of the attackers acquired their guns from home.
Myth No. 9. “We did everything we could to help him.”
“Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack,” and said they had tried without success to get someone to intervene. Administrators and teachers were targeted in more than half the incidents.
Myth No. 10. “School violence is rampant.”
It may seem so, with media attention focused on a spate of school shootings. In fact, school shootings are extremely rare. Even including the more common violence that is gang-related or dispute-related, only 12 to 20 homicides a year occur in the 100,000 schools in the U.S. In general, school assaults and other violence have dropped by nearly half in the past decade.
Common Sense Education SEL Curriculum: Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we’ve heard from many educators who are looking for resources to support students’ social and emotional development. To help, we’ve collected our best social and emotional learning (SEL) resources for building a culture of safety, kindness, and upstanding in your school. If you have any questions about how to use these in your teaching, reach out to us on social media or reply to this email. We’re here for you. – Erin Wilkey Oh, Executive Editor, Common Sense Education
- Social and Emotional Learning Educator Toolkit: Find lessons, activities, classroom tools, and family resources to help students develop empathy, compassion, integrity, courage, and more.
- Digital Citizenship and SEL: Help students navigate life’s digital dilemmas with this discussion guide.
Connect with Kids Network Advice for Parents
- One of the first steps parents should take is to determine the tone they want to use while discussing gun violence and decide on the level of detail they will pursue. These decisions will depend on the age of your children and your comfort with their level of knowledge.
- This article from Today provides guidelines you can use to shape the discussion with children of each age group.
- As this article from NBC mentions, one of the best ways to begin a discussion with older children is to encourage them to express their feelings about the event and voice their concerns about how it affects their life or the nation as a whole.
- When discussing gun violence with older children, it’s important to validate your child’s feelings and provide empathy and emotional support. However, you should also serve as a voice of reason that can quell fears by discussing the safety measures in place at schools and reminding children that mass shootings are still rare events.
- Creating the opportunity for your child to continue talking to you about gun violence and safety in schools can help your child cope with fears over the long-term. Treating these types of discussions as temporary, fleeting responses to a recent event could lead your child to suppress his or her feelings and concerns about the danger posed by gun violence.
- Assure your children that you’re doing everything you can to keep them safe. Try to minimize your children’s perception of danger in the environments they frequent, such as schools, parks, malls, etc.