Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 15
Trump looks to Julia
Cordover, the student
body president at
as she speaks during
the listening session
with high school
and others at the
A Long Journey Ahead Seen
For Survivors of Shooting
By Stephen Sawchuk & Evie Blad
Hours after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, student Morgan
Williams sent a wrenching tweet-a small
glimpse of the trauma that this community
"I cannot stop hearing the sound of the gun
as he walked down my hallway. I cannot unsee
my classmates who were shot get carried out
by police. I cannot unsee the bodies on the floor.
Please keep in mind the horror of what we've
gone through today. #prayfordouglas."
At least initially, hundreds of students
have channeled their grief into activism.
In between vigils, memorial services, and
the funerals of slain classmates, many
Stoneman Douglas students were pressing
lawmakers in Tallahassee for solutions to
prevent another tragedy and preparing for
upcoming marches in Florida and the nation's capital-work likely to have ramifications for the reawakened gun control
Such actions can also lessen the sense of
powerless many feel after a crisis or tragedy,
mental health experts say. Yet on a microlevel, they warn, the Parkland community will
be faced for some time with private, personal
pain-all of it underscored by the fact that students will soon to return to the schoolrooms
that were the settings for the most traumatic
event of their lives.
Students lost even more than friends and
teachers, said Adeena Teres, who teaches science at Stoneman Douglas.
"They lost the sense of school as a safe place,"
Broward County was slated to reopen the
high school on a modified schedule this week following a voluntary student and parent orienta-
tion on Sunday. School leaders still focusing on
the immediate logistical challenges of reopening
the school had not yet outlined long-term counseling plans for students last week.
Long Road Ahead
What is clear, mental-health experts said, is
that the after-effects will take a long time to
"It's going to be a long road, and what we've
seen is there tends to be lots of support in the
first couple of months. And then the supports
leave, and the school is left to deal with the
long-term aftermath," said Melissa Reeves,
the past president of the National Association
of School Psychologists and a member of its
school crisis team.
"It's really important that there's a continuity plan, that you have mental-health professionals and school administrators working
together on what these supports are going
to look like in one month, two months, six
months, or even a year down the road," she
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy,
the Broward County school district opened
three grief counseling sites for Douglas students and community members, a hotline, and
a separate counseling center for staff, which
effectively served as the triage point to assess
needs and to begin to help survivors develop
coping strategies-an important first step in
dealing with trauma, school psychology experts said.
Often, simply reconnecting students, teachers,
and families with their natural support systems
is the most powerful approach to handling a
traumatic event, they said.
For teenagers, that usually means being
with other teenagers, which can help them
realize that reactions, such as having flashbacks, nightmares, and trouble sleeping, are
common and shared by friends, said Thomas
Demaria, an adjunct professor in the clinical
psychology doctorate program at Long Island
No 'Handbook for This'
Effectively, that network of #NeverAgain activists has doubled as a support system for students, noted David Schonfeld, the director of the
National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. What's more, he said, one of the best ways
to recover from disasters is to have a sense of
agency or purpose.
"They are doing it in a very mature and helpful way, and they are doing it together, which is
unusual," he said. "I don't see them doing this to
deny their feelings; it's not that they're ignoring
Still, as students return to school this
month or next, there are no cookie-cutter
paths forward for them or for Stoneman
Anna Fusco, the president of the Broward
Teachers Union, has consulted with teachers
who experienced school shootings at Columbine
High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, and at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown,
Conn., in 2012.
"They said, 'We're going to be real. There's no
handbook for this,' " Fusco recalled. Among the
teachers' pieces of advice: Don't try to move too
quickly through the recovery process.
As Broward County hones its longer-term
support plan for students, the biggest mistake to avoid, Reeves said, is using a "one
size fits all" response, such as requiring all
students or teachers to talk through what
"We don't ever want to impose a direct crisis
intervention onto someone who is not wanting,
or ready, to talk about it yet; we can do more
harm than good," she said.
Research indicates that students can feel
the emotional and academic effects of traumatic events for months and even years
after. Research published in 2005 conducted
on a representative sample of public school
children in New York City following the
events of 9/11 found that, nearly six months
later, more than a quarter exhibited a symptom consistent with a psychiatric disorder.
And a 2016 study published in Educational
Evaluation and Policy Analysis found that students who remained enrolled in a high school
following a school shooting scored lower on
math and English test scores for up to three
years after the event.
The experts noted, too, that trauma and grief
are two separate things-and can interact in
difficult ways. Unlike depression, grief tends to
come and go-during a sporting event, a final
exam, or study hall. But for many students who
lived through the shooting, grief will be difficult
to process because it's intricately linked to a violent experience.
"Traumatic grief is an unnatural process-it
was grief that was put upon you by violence.
You weren't prepared for it," Demaria said. "For
these students in the school, their memory of a
loved one lost is clouded by the distraction of the
traumatic experience. It's hard to go back and
think of that person without also going back and
thinking about the bullets flying."
Memorializing the tragedy will be part of the
grieving process, too. Both Superintendent Robert Runcie and several key lawmakers have said
that the county should demolish the building
at the high school where the shooting occurred.
Some want it to be the site of a new memorial
to the shooting.
The conversation has echoes of the decision
made in Newtown, Conn., where 26 students
and staff were killed in 2012, to raze and rebuild
Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Whatever the Parkland community decides,
students should be front and center in the process of commemorating and remembering those
lost in the violence, Demaria said.
Staff writer Evie Blad reported from Parkland, Fla.
EDUCATION WEEK | February 28, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 15
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018
News in Brief
Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
A Florida City Forever Changed
Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
On Social Media, Teens Witness, Grieve, Organize
Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
One State’s Dive Into K-12 Aid Figures
States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
The Editors: What Should Betsy DeVos Prioritize?
Margaret Spellings: Higher Education
Marilyn Anderson Rhames: Teacher Quality
Karla Phillips: Personalization
Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Shaun M. Dougherty: Career and Tech Ed
Mike Tenbusch : The ‘Have Nots’
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II: Racial-Equity Agenda
Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 5
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Florida City Forever Changed
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 13
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 17
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 21
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 25
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 27
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW4