“After a school or community shooting, school counselors need to help themselves and other adults in the school heal first.”
For this 2020 article in ASCA School Counselor magazine about how school counselors respond to trauma caused by mass shootings, I interviewed educators in El Paso, Texas, where a gunman killed 22 people and injured 24 others at a Walmart in 2019, and in Parkland, Florida, where a shooter at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in 2018 took the lives of 17 students and injured 17 more. The article explored the immediate and longer term responses by school counselors, the resources they have used and programs implemented for students and staff, and what further approaches they would like to see. Our conversations delved into the lasting trauma for survivors – both students and adults. Among the important points the article presented were the need for school counselors and teachers to prepare in advance to deal with crisis situations and the resulting trauma, and the value of social/emotional learning.
“Social/emotional learning is a way to be proactive for possible future trauma. People having the ability within to be resilient and be in touch with their emotions – that’s a benefit when anything traumatic happens.” – Rachel Kushner
This sensitive topic was hard to discuss, but sharing the perspectives from individuals with direct experience had much to offer other school counselors. How can they boost awareness of their role and impact in student support and staff education? How can school counselors help ensure that their school has a crisis plan for traumatic events? Accompanying the body of the article, I assembled a sidebar with resources and organizations to support school counselors in preparing for and responding to crises.