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Schools address national mass shootings with students

Posted at 3:12 PM, Sep 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 16:14:35-04

TULSA -- Even though the majority of U.S. schools will likely never experience a mass shooting on their campus, administrators still have to address it with students. 

When teachers and administrators go to college and enter the education field, they learn effective teaching methods. 

Head of Holland Hall, J.P. Culley, said he was never taught what to say to students after they hear about kids their age gunned down at school. 

"No, no it never crossed my mind," Culley said. 

With the recurring mass shootings at schools across the country, it has become part of their jobs. 

"All schools are going through this right now, because we don't want to talk about it," Culley said. "We know how to talk about it. We know we need to be talking about it, but we also are focused on student learning here."

It has become a necessary evil. 

Culley said Sandy Hook was a turning point for him. Since then, he has been trying to ease the minds of students and their parents after each national tragedy. 

"The families go through wanting to know that they're safe and the school has plans in place so there is a lot of reassuring and also a lot of 'Here's what we are learning from these horrible situations that we are going to apply here to make us a safer community,'" Culley explained. 

That is what students from area schools said they want. They want to talk about it. Even though many do not think a shooting could happen at their school, they still worry. 

"I feel like 'What if that was me?' 'What if that was my school?'" Dupriest Cutsinger who attends Jenks Middle School said. "That's what I think whenever I see that on the news."

They want to know there is a plan in place, practice it and see it. They want transparency.

"Just putting a plan in place, so we know there is a backup and we know there is somewhere safe after it happens if it ever does," Marissa Veitch who attends Jenks Middle School said.

They want to know they have someone they can trust to talk to about their concerns.

"A lot of the teachers are very adamant on protecting their students," Joe Nickel a high schooler at Bishop Kelley said. "A lot of them have their own plans in place in case something happens. A lot of them keep a bat in their classroom."

Holland Hall high schoolers meet as a group every morning. After a school shooting, they use that meeting to discuss the tragedy and open the floor up to students. 

Chaplains, counselors, teachers and advisors are available every day. Even though it has not happened in our area recently, Culley said kids often want to talk about why people are targeting schools with children inside. 

"In a school of our size and even in larger public systems where you have 10 to 15 students, they can come to you and they can process and think and sometimes they just need to get it out," Culley said. "They just need to say it and we are thankful they feel comfortable to share that with us." 

Culley said Holland Hall students asked him to reinforce measures the school already had in place. They increased the number of active shooter drills they are doing and clued students in on other plans. 

Besides physical security like gates, guards and limiting access to classrooms, they are also trying to encourage students to be in tune with one another. 

"If something seems amiss let's report it," Culley said. "Let's talk to somebody about it. Somebody might be hurting and they might need some help. We always bring it back to those really really important pieces that help us with threat assessment."

While the Holland Hall Dutch talk with middle and high schoolers about tragedies like Parkland or Santa Fe, they do not openly talk about it with elementary students, unless the students themselves are openly talking about it. Culley said usually they leave it up to the parents. 

"We certainly don't want to scare a child if their family has made the decision to keep that information from them," Culley said. "We want to honor those families and allow them to have the conversations that they want to have." 

Culley believes helping kids make sense of these situations that truly do not make sense is a natural extension of their jobs as teachers.

He said Holland Hall is now focusing on educating parents so they can have the right conversations with their children to ease anxiety and help them process what is going on.

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