Source: Connect with Kids
Can Students Prevent Violence by Telling?
“He was saying ‘I’m gonna kill people,’ everyone took it as a joke. I can’t say that I would take it any differently.”
– Joanna, 15, talking about the school shooting in Santee, California
A student who seems strange, a comment that sounds frightening … how can students tell who’s serious and who isn’t, what’s a joke and what’s a real threat?
The problem is students say those kinds of ‘jokes’ are made all the time.
“I’ve had friends who were just like, ‘man I just want to kill that teacher’ or ‘I just hate it here and want to blow up the school,’” says Tara-Lynn, a high school junior, “I’ve probably said things like that myself.”
“I mean I hear people say that all the time. I don’t take it seriously,” adds Joanna, a freshman.
When should students take it seriously? They’re in a bind. If they tell on someone, they’re called a rat or a snitch. If they don’t tell, someone could die or be injured. Always in the back of their mind, what if they tell on someone… and they’re wrong?
“How do you know you’re not gonna just end up crying ‘wolf’ all the time, every time a kid makes a threat,” says Cliff, a junior.
How should kids evaluate a threat? Experts say first, kids should follow their instincts. If something another student says doesn’t feel right, even just a little bit, it probably isn’t.
“Either afraid, or guilty, or this is just going against my values, it doesn’t feel right,” says psychologist Dr. Wendy Blumenthal.
Then find an adult you trust. Someone you can trust to protect your anonymity. Someone you can trust not to panic when you tell them you’re worried.
Maybe that’s your parents, but it could also be a school counselor, a minister from your church or a coach.
Because if a disaster happens and you stay silent about what you heard, just think how that would make you feel.
“Because if we take everything for granted,” says Crystal, a junior, “this (the school shooting in California) is what can happen.”
Tips for Parents
Police have been able to prevent several ‘Columbine-like’ massacres at US schools recently–thanks to tips from students. Students notified school officials after learning that other students planned to carry out violent acts. And while kids are more willing to report threats of violence after Columbine, experts say parents should explain to their children that there is a difference between ‘telling’ and ‘tattling.’
According to the National Education Association (NEA):
Children ‘tattle’ to get their own way or to get someone else in trouble.
Children should be encouraged to ‘tell’ an adult when someone is in danger of getting hurt.
Some schools have started anonymous hotlines so that parents or children can provide information that could alert authorities to potential problems.
According to the American Psychological Association one in 12 high schoolers is threatened or injured with a weapon each year. To reduce that risk, the APA lists several ‘warning signs’ that kids need to recognize in other students, indications that violence is a “serious possibility”:
Loss of temper on a daily basis
Frequent physical fighting
Significant vandalism or property damage
Increase in use of drugs or alcohol
Increase in risk-taking behavior
Detailed plans to commit acts of violence
Announcing threats or plans for hurting others
Enjoying hurting animals
Carrying a weapon
Once students recognize a warning sign, the APA says there are things they can do. Hoping that someone else will deal with the problem is “the easy way out.” The advice for students:
Above all, be safe. Don’t spend time alone with people who show warning signs.
Tell someone you trust and respect about your concerns and ask for help (a family member, guidance counselor, teacher, school psychologist, coach, clergy, or friend).
If you are worried about becoming a victim of violence, get someone to protect you. Do not resort to violence or use a weapon to protect yourself.