What to Tell Students If a School Shooting Occurs Nearby

A whole generation of children is growing up without watching, or knowing, about “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”  Yes, there’s an animated series called “Daniel Tiger.”  Trying to take the lessons and apply it to a new generation; however, it doesn’t come close.  It’s a different time.  Fred Rogers never had to talk about a Sandy Hook, or a Columbine, or the September 11th terrorist attack. His show wouldn’t work today, some might say.  And meanwhile, we have a generation of children that are becoming numb to the ongoing school shootings and violence that is reported weekly, and daily.  

But the best neighbor any of us ever had, had this to say.  And it speaks volumes whenever a catastrophe occurs, to give our children hope:


“Always look for the Helpers.  There will always be helpers.”

-Fred Rogers

Parents and teachers, every time there is a tragedy, try to show students that there are, indeed, good people.  Caring individuals.  That way there is still HOPE.  

Yet, we all struggle to understand the unending streak of school violence many children are experiencing intense sadness, anger, fear-and perhaps guilt.  

As an authority on school violence, I would recommend the following four Dos and Don’ts following a violent occurrence at school or in your community.


If you’re panicking, you’re not thinking clearly.  And this may cause you to say or do things that that will make your child or student more upset or scared.  Be upfront with children or student. Address his or her questions and concerns truthfully, but sensitively.  Breathe.  And it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”  

2. DON’T expect you’ll have all the answers.

The best way to talk is to listen first. Try to understand what the child is going through.  Allow your child to ask the unanswerable question. Even more than answers, your child needs to struggle with the “why” that accompany tragedies.

3.  DON’T present yourself as the all-knowing adult.

There are no quick fixes or easy answers.  Learn and understand all the facts before you make a judgment about what happened.

4. DON’T force a conversation

Kids are smart.  Your child or student will be ready to talk when they are comfortable.  But parents, teachers, make it clear that you will work to make school a safer place.