School safety: empathy and risk awareness

From paNOW
February 26, 2018 - 5:00pm

A local school division official said the recent school shooting in Florida and sentencing hearings for the La Loche school shooter have highlighted the need for safety in schools.

Robert Bratvold, director of education at the Sask. Rivers Public School Division, said school safety is always on the minds of administrators, who are constantly assessing risks.

“That’s one of the key things,” Bratvold told paNOW. “There are things we can do before a crisis rather than responding.”

Bratvold said school staff are trained in violent threat risk assessment in order to help identify risk-laden individuals and those in potentially threatening situations. He also noted community building inside classrooms helps improve student-to-student connections and mutual support, starting when students are young.

“That helps to recognize when there is a classmate who is experiencing stress, to understand ways to be supportive, but also understand where to seek help,” Bratvold said.

Much has been said about the modern social media world in which young students are immersed, and whether they are becoming desensitized to tragic events. We asked Bratvold if social media was affecting the way students process such events, or their attitudes towards lockdown drills.

“That’s a challenging thing and I’m in two minds,” he said.

The local director of education said he has seen many students demonstrating strong empathy, but some have built up "a level of tolerance" which leads them to treat the tragedies as common occurrances. Students and staff all take emergency drills very seriously, he said, and students know what to do in the event of a fire or other dangerous situation. Schools are mandated to conduct a number of annual drills.

“I think the overall message is these things are tragic and we need to be compassionate and empathetic, but the other side of it is we need to be attentive to situations that can help us prevent these things from happening,” Bratvold said. 


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