Panel addresses Sandy Hook
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 07:02
In December, tragedy struck the small town of Newtown, Conn., when a gunman entered the local elementary school of Sandy Hook, and shot and killed 20 children and six adults.
In an attempt to better understand the tragedy, the West Virginia University College of Education and Human Services invited students, parents, teachers and community members to a panel in Lyon Tower Thursday to discuss the shooting and more importantly, to learn how to move forward from it.
Because 20 of the victims were children of ages 6-7, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting shook the nation, particularly disturbing parents and educators across the country.
"It was almost like it was surreal because I have two daughters...It took me back to when they were in first grade," said Dr. Jerry Jones, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction/literacy studies.
Jones previously worked as a superintendent and he shared his point of view from the school administration standpoint.
"Everybody’s so busy that we don’t take time to talk," Jones said.
Fellow panel member and interim department chair and associate professor of counseling psychology Jeffrey Daniels explained that out of recent school shootings, 82 percent of shooters told someone about their plan beforehand.
"Teachers should integrate more with students to help break that code of silence," Daniels said.
Chris Schimmel, assistant professor and coordinator of school counseling, agreed in order to heal and move forward, it’s necessary for the community to talk about the situation.
"You should be turning to your school counselors for ideas of how to deal with this kind of tragedy and grief," Schimmel said.
Another way for young children to understand the incident is to allow them to explore it.
Schimmel lives about three miles from a mine in West Virginia that exploded about 10 years ago, killing 12 men. She recalls the following weekend after the explosion, when she saw her eight-year-old son and his friends pretending they were in the mine.
"They’re children, but they know what is going on. You need to let them act it out, and they’ll move on", Schimmel said.
Another panel member, Bobbie Warash, professor of technology, learning and culture, also works in the nursery school with children ages 3-5.
"(Sandy Hook) was something totally unbelievable, and it almost brought me back to 9/11 because it affected so many people," Warash said.
She remembers being at the nursery school after 9/11 happened.
"We noticed children in the block area, building towers and knocking them down with pretend airplanes," Warash said.
Although this sight might be too much for some adults to swallow, Miriam Roth Douglas, professor of education at West Liberty University and adjunct professor at WVU, believes it is imperative people are able to express themselves through art in order to heal.
"The arts are cut out of the curriculum more and more, so they don’t have the time to express maybe anger or frustrations they have, so it cannot be caught early," Douglas said.
The panel concluded with allowing students to stand at a microphone and address any remaining questions they have to the panel.
"Everybody feels helpless and doesn’t know what to do at times, but maybe now people will get structure and ideas of how to handle these situations," Douglas said.