Donovan Group Insights

Addressing Fear in the Aftermath of School Violence

In several of the states we serve, last week was especially difficult for students, parents, staff and others in light of the various threats and instances of school violence that have taken place.

When something terrible happens in a school or in our larger community, or when a threat is made, the action ripples like a wave. It moves through the community in which it took place, and onto the region, the state and, often, across the country.

In some cases, this wave manifests itself in fear. In others, it’s a dull feeling of unease and discomfort. That unease feels as if it is part of us. It is difficult to shake.

To this day, when I enter a movie theater, my mind flashes back to the terrible news of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, way back in 2012. I have to convince myself that I am safe. As much as I have tried over the years, I cannot shake that uneasy feeling.

I believe the same is true when we hear of tragedies in schools. Once again, that feeling of unease swept across the states and into our consciousness as we digested the terrible news.

This week, that wave of fear became very personal to me. On her way to school the morning after learning of school violence in another district, my high school-aged daughter texted me a message I would reflect on every day since: “Will I be safe today?”

That question is certainly on the minds of millions of students, parents, staff members and other community members. In these difficult times, ensure you are communicating with your school district community about efforts to keep your schools safe. Do not be afraid to also acknowledge the fear that comes as a result of the news of school violence elsewhere.

Perhaps most importantly, show your heart. Share difficult conversations you have with your own children or other loved ones about these difficult subjects.

Unfortunately, there will likely be more instances of school violence in the future. As a school leader, it is important to show your school community not only that you take these issues seriously, but that you also share their unease.

Joe Donovan is president of the Donovan Group.

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