Phelps: How to keep our students safe

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This month, our children will return to school. The concerns we have about safety have been heightened recently by more school shootings by mentally ill people. These senseless shootings are not limited to the schoolyard, however.

As a community, we offer condolences to those who lost loved ones. There are no words to express the magnitude of such a loss.

But the question remains: What do we do? The task of understanding it all seems impossible.

There are always signs.

If you see something, say something. If there are signals of action or of the thought of harm or suicide, get help. Notify a parent or someone at the school. If it proves inaccurate, that’s OK. It’s better to err on the side of safety.

Parents shouldn’t ignore their child’s activities or threats of harm. Notify authorities and ask for help. You may save your own life.

Keep an eye out for your kids’ peers if they:
• Make threats, verbally or on social media.
• Brag about guns or weapons to hurt someone.
• Express suicidal thoughts.

No rational person makes these kinds of statements. It seems to be a common thread that perpetrators know they will die as part of their assault. This acknowledgment is incomprehensible. I continue to have faith in the interactions of our police and school administration to ensure the safety of our loved ones.

After such events, people struggle to deal with the aftermath. We all want to protect our children from this level of trauma. If it’s an issue, keep discussions simple, supportive and age appropriate. Talk to your children about their fears and what they understand is happening. Keep an open mind to the wide range of emotions they might be experiencing. Balance as best you can the reality of our world with positive reminders of the good that happens in school and at home. Make sure they know you and school staff will protect them.

Another good idea is to limit your exposure to national news coverage of shootings. It can be traumatic for some people to watch – over and over again. If you have any family members who can’t seem to shift their focus, keep an eye on them. If you see a problem, get help. May your families remain safe from danger.


Harriet Phelps, Psy.D., is a volunteer with Be Awesome Youth Coalition.

This column was first published in the July edition of InMaricopa magazine.