PIQUA — Fortified by the growing protest against gun violence, hundreds of thousands of students at schools across the country walked out of their classrooms on Wednesday, one month to the date after a lone shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
More than 3,000 walkout events were registered to take part in the call to Congress to pass tighter gun control laws, according to ENOUGH National School Walkout.
About 100 students at Piqua High School joined the demonstrations, many of which lasted 17 minutes in symbolic homage to those who lost their lives. They gathered peacefully in front of the school to pray and offer comfort and support to each other.
A number of administration staff members were on hand, including Superintendent Dwayne Thompson, who said, “This is when our kids are at their finest,” in reference to the students’ respectful approach to dealing with a “real-world situation.”
Addressing how tragedies like the Parkland massacre affect students, Thompson said he feels the impact varies and depends on such factors as how much exposure the child has to news media on television, whether they have any connections to the tragedy or if they have experienced anything like the tragedy in the past, and the discussions they have with adults to help them understand what happened.
“Any tragedy such as this is an opportunity for students to learn coping skills. It’s important for parents to talk with their children about events such as this and to listen to concerns their children may have so they can help them express their feelings and deal with any anxiety they may be experiencing,” Thompson said.
“It’s also best when a parent can watch news coverage with their children to further explain what might be happening and to reassure the child when necessary. It is important to note that when watching news live, events may unfold in ways that a parent, particularly of younger children, may not want their child to see.”
When matters become politically charged, as they have in the wake of the Florida shootings, “it is good for parents to help their children sort through their thoughts, values, and understanding to answer important questions they may have that will help them understand what others may be thinking and why they may think that way,” Thompson noted.
“This will help their children interact with others as they encounter conversations with people that may have a different belief, understanding, or experience with the tragedy. Ultimately, the greatest value to a child at this time is to listen.”
Finally, Thompson said, children of all ages need reassurance through such tragic situation, even though their parents might not have all the answer to their questions.
“It’s very difficult to understand why these events happen. Finding a way to reassure the child and confirm their feelings, while also giving hope and a feeling of safety is a delicate balance, yet important,” he said.
“There are often great tips on the internet to guide parents through ways to discuss tragic events such as this. Keeping an open ear beyond the initial conversation so the child can continue to get good answers from a trusted adult will go a long way to help the child gain a better understanding while also dealing with questions and feelings they may have.”
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