It's the first day back in class since a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and questions aren't necessarily getting easier to answer. Just as parents and teachers want to know why 20 children and six educators died, many kids are trying to piece together what happened and what it means.
Here are tools, guidance and suggestions to help you decide how to talk about with the kids in your life, whether in class or at home.
1) CNN Student News devoted Monday's 10-minute episode to explaining and reflecting on the shooting and its aftermath. Student News is a free, commercial-free, daily news show for middle and high school classrooms. Some students who wanted to type out thoughts, questions, reflections and prayers are sharing on the CNN Student News A to Z blog, as well.
2) Know the signs of anxiety and fear. Children of different age groups express emotions in different ways, whether they're directly affected or traumatized by conversations and media. Here are suggestions for how to handle each age group, and what signs reveal they're still struggling.
"It is minute by minute, case by case. It's really a matter of listening and responding in a way that fits the framework of their understanding," said Dr. John B. Lochridge, an Atlanta-based child and family psychiatrist.
By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - Sandy Hook Elementary School probably did everything right. Its staff and teachers worked every day to create a climate that valued kindness and posted the plan for all to see. They had lockdown drills that trained everyone to stay low and quiet in the event of an emergency. A security system introduced this year required visitors to ring a bell, sign-in and perhaps produce a photo ID. After 9:30 a.m., the doors were locked.
And now it's the home of the one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. Twenty children dead and eight adults, including the shooter.
Those who know the world of school security are already predicting what comes next: A strong reaction - maybe an overreaction - by parents, schools and legislators who want to take action. Politicians will be elected on platforms of school safety. Vendors will turn up with technology and plans to sell. Schools will rewrite their crisis plans and run extra drills.
It happened after the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, and again after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
And within a few months or years, it'll be back to cutting security budgets and fighting for time to train staff and teachers.
"The vast majority have a crisis plan on paper. It's much more common that we find those plans are collecting dust on the shelf and they're not a part of the culture or the practice," said Kenneth Trump, a school security consultant. "I don't believe we need to throw out the book of best practices on school safety. I think we do need to focus our resources, times and conversation back on the fundamentals."
Read the full story
Follow news about Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on CNN's live This Just In blog.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
(CNN) - School shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, may have long-lasting consequences, but with proper support, many children are able to move on, experts say.
Children need to be with their families as quickly as possible after exposure to such horrific events, said Steven Marans, director of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence/Childhood Violent Trauma Center at Yale University's Child Study Center.
Marans and colleagues are making themselves available to Connecticut officials, including the governor's office and state police.
The good news is that most kids do bounce back from a single incident of trauma, said James Garbarino, professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago and author of "Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them." If children can get back into their normal routines and get proper support, he said, they will do well.
Long-term issues are more likely for children who were very close to someone who died in a shooting, who witnessed the event or who were in close physical proximity to it, Garbarino said.
In addition, "Kids who are having difficult lives before the event are the ones most likely to have issues," Garbarino said.
By Robyn Barberry, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Robyn Barberry teaches English at an alternative high school and a community college in Maryland. With her husband, she manages Legends of the Fog, a haunted attraction with more than 200 teen volunteers. She has an Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and blogs about motherhood for The Catholic Review.
(CNN) – On the first day of classes late last month, I kissed my little boys goodbye and updated my Facebook status: “Wishing all my teacher friends a happy new school year!” I rushed to my classroom at an alternative high school near my home outside of Baltimore. When I turned on the LCD projector, a soft glow of dust-speckled light hit the stark white screen, and displayed the words “Welcome back!” I was prepared for everything except what happened.
When I was leaving the office, the school resource officer stopped me.
“There was a school shooting today...in Perry Hall,” he told me.
I must have stared at him for an entire minute before I could speak.
Shootings didn’t happen anywhere on the first day of school. Certainly not in Perry Hall.
The officer was armed with a badge, combat training and a service weapon, and he wasn’t prepared for this, either. He said a lone gunman had shot one person in the back, and that he’d already been apprehended. There was no word on the victim’s condition.
This wasn’t the way the first day of school is supposed to be. The beginning of a new academic year offers a clean slate for teachers and students alike. We debut new, improved versions of ourselves. “This year we will shine,” we convince each other. Dreams like this are never deferred by the crack of a shotgun across a school cafeteria on the first day of school.
By Jim Roope, CNN
Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on the petition to change the MPAA rating for the film "Bully" from Jim Roope.
(CNN) – According to the documentary, “Bully,” 13,000,000 kids will be bullied this year in the U.S. The film follows the lives of five kids who are the victims of bullies. The Motion Picture Association of America has given the documentary an “R” rating because of strong language, but a 17-year-old bullying victim is trying to change that.
Katy Butler said she was bullied almost everyday at her Ann Arbor, Michigan middle school.
“I was out as a lesbian, and there were a lot of kids in my school who were really not OK with that,” said Butler. “They taunted me and bullied me and harassed and they slammed my hand in my locker and broke my finger,” she said.
Butler said the MPAA's “R” rating will mean the very kids who should see it, meaning middle-and-high-school-aged kids, cannot see it.
By Jessie Klein, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jessie Klein is a sociology and criminal justice professor at Adelphi University. She is the author of “The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools.” During the last two decades, she led and administered high school guidance programs. She served as a supervisor, school social worker, college adviser, social studies teacher, substance abuse prevention counselor and conflict resolution coordinator and worked as a social work professor. You can see more of Klein’s work at jessieklein.com.
(CNN) - Misery has become the norm for young people in school - the Ohio school shooting last week and the case of the Rutgers University cyber-bullying suicide are only the most high-profile of recent related fatalities.
Such despairing actions like suicides and shootings aren’t aberrations. Kids across America are distressed and crying out for help in different ways. When they abuse substances, cut themselves, sink into debilitating depression and paralyzing anxiety, become truant, drop out of school or commit suicide or school shootings, they are saying the same thing: It is too much to bear.
These incidents and the hundreds that came in the decades before, are treated time and again as problems with the individual at the center of the story – but Tyler Clementi and T.J. Lane are not the only lonely teens who were at risk for drastic actions like suicide and shootings.
Educators, parents, and other concerned people often ask me to describe the profile of a bully or someone likely to commit suicide, but this is the wrong question. Instead, we need to examine problem-schools where kids endure a hostile environment every day.
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - Students at Ohio's Chardon High School prepared to head back to class Friday for the first time since a gunman walked into the school's cafeteria and killed three teenagers.
Two other students were hospitalized and another was grazed by gunfire Monday morning.
The person who authorities say is responsible, 17-year-old T.J. Lane, was charged Thursday afternoon with three counts of aggravated murder, two of attempted aggravated murder and one of felonious assault, the latter related to an individual who was "nicked in the ear" by a bullet, according to Geauga County Prosecuting Attorney David Joyce.
Some students were with their parents in the school, situated in a community of about 5,100 people some 30 miles east of Cleveland, on Thursday and counseling has been made available at various locales since the shooting.
Columbine High principal Frank DeAngelis offers to help the principal of Chardon High School in wake of the shooting there.
Editor's Note: Dr. Frank Ochberg is clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University and former associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
By Frank Ochberg, Special to CNN
(CNN) - School shootings are far more frequent in America than in other countries, although terrible massacres have occurred in Russia, Israel and several European nations. In the high-crime neighborhoods of inner cities, school turf is relatively safe. We have learned to harden the target and patrol with vigilance.
And even in those suburbs and small towns where spree killings have occurred, the rates, per capita, are lower now than in previous decades. School is a safe place – until, as in Chardon, Ohio, the unspeakable happens. Then, even though the risks are low, it is fair to ask, why does this still happen? Why here, in America?
Let's be clear. There is no single, certain answer to these questions. The possible factors include failure by classmates, parents and school officials to see the warning signs; bullying and revenge; serious mental illness; violent role models; drugs; access to guns, and a culture that condones extremism.
America has its share of these factors, but which are significant and which are more prevalent here than across the Atlantic?
Read the full post on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS blog
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org