4/13/21: Schools Need Better Crisis Response Plans

It was January 28, 1986, & as a kindergartner, I still remember the tears of my teachers, as they learned of the tragedy of Space Shuttle Challenger. This particular loss hit close to home for them, as Christa McAuliffe was on that shuttle, set to be the 1st teacher ever to go to space. After the tears…we never spoke of the tragedy as a class…never addressed it in school.

When SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched astronauts into orbit for the 1st time in nearly a decade the past May, I’d shared that those of us old enuf to remember Challenger, were all breathing a sigh of relief after having to hold our breathe knowing what we’d seen in the past.

Trauma from past events lives inside us. Inside our bodies. Our muscle, bones, fascia, cells. It especially lives deep inside us when we witness it, & we don’t address it shortly after, & assume time will just make it better.

I had a convo w a gentleman who’s been struggling recently, & now lives in Chicago. He’s a little younger than I am, & we were talking abt the events of 9/11. I was in my 1s yr out of college, at the NBA League Office, watching the events unfold straight out or our wall windows in our offices, facing down 5th Avenue. This man was in HS at the time, in a suburb in Illinois. He told me – as a HS’er, watching the events on TV, he immediately thought 4/5 yrs ahead, that he’d fear ever working in an office building in downtown Chicago, bc a high rise was no longer “safe.”

I’m assuming for most of us, & I apologize for any triggers, that the recounts of the events above are visceral in some way. Again, they live inside us. And as humans, we think of how WE may in some way be connected to these events (teacher to teacher, student to teacher, office employee to office employee, etc.), when they happen.

It’s why I’m so frustrated w our “coordinated” efforts (or lack thereof), when school tragedies (or tragedies of any kind), happen. This is not a post abt how we stop the tragedies (tho that needs to be addressed), it’s one abt how we react (or don’t).

The most common school response I’ve seen – from Parkland to the events of yesterday in Knoxville are: 1) school closures

& 2) counselors being made available. After Parkland, we saw kids marching in the streets. Whatever your political lean/feelings on guns, you had to respect these kids for using their voices to try to bring about change in their own way, so that tragedies like these don’t occur again. However my mind went a different place. These kids were so young. They felt SO resilient. So many of them felt like they could save the world at that point. Here’s my question – in that state: how many of those kids feel like they VOLUNTARILY should go to a counselor to talk things out? Young, resilient, motivated. Unaware how this stuff lives in them.

We have disaster relief efforts on a national level when there are major hurricanes. Earthquakes. We send in federal help. Even if it’s for the Xs & Os of the physical damage…there’s coordination. So here’s my question: w the amount of tragedies we have had in schools, in neighborhoods, HOW do we NOT have standard programmatic relief efforts for the emotional effects of tragedies (especially in schools), given how often they’ve happened? If you know of some that exist & I’m just in the dark, please correct me. How can our response be simply to 1) close the schools for a few days, 2) passively say that counselors are available?

I thought we were becoming “trauma informed.” I thought ACE scoring was becoming a more standardized way of looking at students. If that’s the case, how are we PASSIVELY waiting to address these things as school communities? I get that certain details of each EVENT are sensitive, but we don’t yet have standard programming to bring all school community stakeholders together to address how what they just lived through, impacted them, & how & why they need to talk about it? Like an EAP program for work, we are just gonna passively wait for kids to use counselors? Call me upset…but I am. We know so much more & we don’t use what we know.

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