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Graphic footage and accounts of the latest happenings in the world are being delivered into our homes 24 hours a day. The constant barrage can feel overwhelming for us, but it can be especially confusing and frightening for many children. An example is the aftermath from Parkland, Fla. And because of it, many students around the country are afraid to go to school because "We don't feel safe".

States and school districts have stepped up their efforts to learn what could make them safer. Oregon Governor Kate Brown has established the Oregon Task Force on School Safety and charged them with coming up with threat assessment and safety plans with that goal in mind. However all of the video cameras and steel doors and teachers with guns will never eliminate a threat.

Reality check: On April 1, 2018, CNN released a report listing the "Deadliest Mass School Shootings" since 1949. (http://cnn.it/2EuyUtO) The results: 27 at Sandy Hook, 17 at Parkland, 13 at Columbine and seven at Red Lake. Only four incidents in 70 years involving 64 deaths.

While we're waiting for plans and getting them funded and implemented, we suggest taking a hard look at what goes on inside Oregon high schools once the doors close.

A review of the 2017 Oregon Healthy Teen survey gives a good indication of what makes our eighth and 11 graders feel unsafe on a daily basis. From harassment, physical fights and being threatened with a weapon on school property, and the biggest concern: the yearly increase since 2009 in students feeling hopeless, seriously considering suicide and actually attempting suicide. (https://bit.ly/2HPqIqt)

Strengthening harassment policies to protect all students, not just those in a protected class, and the implementation of a suicide prevention, intervention and postvention crisis plan, accompanied by training, not just for school counselors, but staff, students and parents as well, that will make our students safer.

In the mean time, let your child know the facts about school shootings and other types of disasters. Simply because we see these events on the news, doesn’t make it any more likely they will happen to us. By talking with our kids early and often about the stories and images they are exposed to, we can help them better understand the world around them. 

Gordon Clay

Brookings

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