Sandy Hook Elementary school has re-opened since a gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members at the Connecticut school Dec. 14. But the scars it left behind still linger.

To help the healing process and to stimulate discussion, promote awareness and assist others in dealing with school violence, West Virginia University’s College of Education and Human Services will present “Understanding the Sandy Hook School Tragedy,” a panel of education experts, from 3:30-5 p.m. Jan. 31 in Lyon Tower’s Blue and Gold event rooms.

Students, parents, teachers, school leaders and community members, along with the general public, are invited to attend.

“We feel the pain of every individual in dealing with the Sandy Hook events,” Lynne Schrum, dean of CEHS said. “We are particularly concerned, however, for those in positions of helping children cope with this situation—parents, teachers, counselors and others. This panel will bring together experts and the community to begin to engage in valuable conversation.”

Schrum will moderate the event. Panelists and their discussion topics are:

• Dr. Jeffrey Daniels, interim chair, associate professor, counseling psychology, CEHS; “Preventing School Violence, Creating Safe School Communities.”
• Dr. Chris Schimmel, assistant professor, counseling, CEHS; “The role of the School Counselor in dealing with mental and emotional issues present with students, how school counselors are frequently underutilized in assisting students with mental and emotional issues.”
• Dr. Miriam Roth Douglas, professor of education, West Liberty University, adjunct professor, CEHS; “Using curriculum and the arts to help children explore their feelings and fear.”
• Dr. Bobbie Warash, professor, director, WVU Nursery School, Child Development & Family Studies, CEHS; “Young children’s attempt to understand violent events.”
• Dr. Jerry Jones, assistant professor, curriculum & instruction/educational leadership, CEHS; “The role of the administrator at the building and central office level for safe schools, creating a community of involvement and a sense of belonging for all boys and girls.”

Click below to hear Bobbie Warash, director of WVU's Child Development Laboratory (also known as the WVU Nursery School), describe how 9/11 affected the culture at schools, from security issues to the role of educators in handling questions and concerns about tragedy from young students.

“We were all shocked and horrified with the Sandy Hook tragedy, and questions linger,” Daniels said. “Who could have done such a thing? Could this have prevented? These and other questions will be addressed in this panel discussion.”

Warash, who has been the director of the WVU Child Development Laboratory (also known as the WVU Nursery School) since 1980, has observed a culture change since the terrorist attack on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. Like Sandy Hook, 9/11 received widespread media coverage and created an awareness in the three- to five-year-olds at the school that she’d never seen before.

“The things we started noticing were the things the children were enjoying at play like building towers and knocking them down with airplanes,” Warash said. “From that, you see that kids are trying to process this information in a manner that is appropriate for them.”

Click to hear Bobbie Warash talk about how parents deal with insulating their children from media coverage of tragedies like 9/11 and Sandy Hook and the thought processes of children who observe the coverage.

And since 9/11, the Nursery School has been more focused on safety and security. A WVU Police officer visits each year to present safety tips and strategies to the school’s staff, many of whom are WVU students. As an after-effect from Sandy Hook, the Nursery School will have its first-ever lockdown this year, although the teachers will present the drill as a fun exercise to prevent instilling fear in the children, Warash said.

“Understanding the Sandy Hook School Tragedy” will provide a starting point for parents and schools who are looking to adopt their own strategies and techniques for dealing with school violence.

“Unfortunately, it’s something that’s prevalent now,” Warash said. “And it’s sad to say but teachers and adults who work with children need to be prepared and have some ideas of how to either approach or explain to children the situation in an appropriate way.”



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CONTACT: Christie Zachary, Education and Human Services