The recent series of violent events and tragedy across our country have devastated community after community, family after family. Our hearts are heavy for each of the communities, families, and victims touched by this violence. We at Safe and Sound Schools are working within our network of school safety professionals and community members to support and prepare schools for addressing these issues and fostering positive, peaceful dialogue. Together, we can prepare to welcome our students and families back to a safe and reassuring school environment.
The following statement is contributed by Safe and Sound Advisor, Dr. Melissa Reeves on behalf of the National Association of School Psychologists.
We join the nation in sorrow and outrage at the senseless acts of recurring violence. The level of anger and violence in this country is unacceptable and is a heartbreaking symptoms of serious underlying societal problems.
As parents, caregivers, and educators, we have a critical responsibility to help children and youth understand the challenges at hand within a problem-solving context and see themselves as active participants in our collective national commitment to liberty and justice for all.
It is our hope that the nation will take a lesson or two from how effective schools contribute—on a daily basis—to children’s understanding of what it means to be part of a positive community. School communities succeed in large measure because they maintain values that shape a positive learning environment. These values are expressed in the following ways.
- Adults model and teach desired behaviors. Adults can help children and youth manage their reactions to events in the news and their communities by understanding their feelings, modeling healthy coping strategies, and redirecting negative thoughts and feelings.
- What we say and how we say it matters. Adults should model civil discourse and provide opportunities to engage children and youth in conversations that focus on common goals rather than labeling groups of people for individual behavior.
- Other people’s perspectives matter. The very nature of civil disagreement is to acknowledge respectfully the views and experiences of other people and learn from differing perspectives. Adults can create safe spaces for youth to share their feelings and concerns while also exploring how they might feel and act if they were in someone else’s shoes.
- Trusting relationships are essential. Establishing positive relationships between adults and students is foundational to safe, successful learning environments. Schools can provide opportunities to strengthen positive interactions with law enforcement, such as engaging SROs as integral members of the school team.
- Safety and well-being are a shared responsibility. We each have a role in countering violence, inequity, and isolation. Being silent is not a responsible option. We have to actively counter anger and hate with acceptance and compassion everywhere.
- Contributions and effort are recognized and valued. We can and must honestly address systemic problems, but we must also acknowledge the individual citizens of all races and ethnicities, public servants and leaders, and members of law enforcement who go above and beyond to do the right thing every day.
There is no more important endeavor than helping our children and youth become positive, productive, valued citizens. We start by making their safety and well-being an unequivocal priority no matter where they learn, play, and live. Together we can work together to counter hate and violence and bring positive change and unity to our country.
Dr. Melissa Louvar Reeves is the current President-Elect of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). She is a nationally certified school psychologist, licensed professional counselor, and licensed special education teacher.