Tuesday's elementary school gunman incident near Atlanta reminds us that school shooting threats are all too real nowadays.
Reports of a shooting or a gunman on school grounds may be a parent's worst nightmare, but sufficient preparation can possibly save a child's life -- and give parents some peace of mind.
Here are five school shooting tips for parents to keep in mind:
- Know your school's protocol. Educate yourself on your school's active shooter protocol, which many colleges and local districts are adopting. The FBI even issued a bulletin on active shooter protocols in various school shooting circumstances. In light of recent shootings, some schools are shifting away from standard lockdown systems and turning to more proactive response efforts. One such program, called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), calls for barricading doors and using counter-techniques, reports ABC News. Check with your child's school to find out what the protocol is for your child's age group. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions about why one type of protocol was implemented over another.
- Sign up for text alerts from your child's school. Colleges, universities, and even some secondary and elementary schools are using emergency notification systems. Such systems issue emergency alerts via email, text message, Twitter, and other means. If you're unsure whether your school offers emergency alerts, there are ways for you to find out, including checking with the school's campus police department and "following" the school on social media.
- Gather at a designated meeting point. During a crisis situation, parents may not be allowed on or near campus; after the crisis is over, the scene will be chaotic. If authorities don't designate a meeting point for parent-child reunions, then you and your child may want to set a designated meeting place on your own. Pick a place that's easy to remember and not too far away or isolated.
- Comfort your child. After a gunman on campus or a school shooting, it's important for parents to talk to their children about wha thappened. Encourage your children to express their feelings and reassure them that feeling sad, scared or angry is perfectly normal. Minimize their exposure to media and don't feel obligated to give a reason for what happened, suggests a school crisis and bereavement director at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
- Seek medical attention. A school shooting is an incredibly traumatic experience for a child. If you become concerned about your child's behavior, contact a pediatrician or a qualified mental health care specialist.
For more general safety tips now that school's underway, check out FindLaw's section on School Safety.