Students across the country yesterday organized walkouts to honor the victims of last month’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school. As such tragedies in the U.S. increase, so does the amount of stress and fear in many students.
Cathy Cox is the director of student support services for the Flagstaff Unified School District. She says school gun violence is contributing to more mental health issues in young people.
“It’s everything from depression and anxiety at a level where students are functioning, but it’s difficult for them at school. Our counselors are really aware of this; they do a lot of screeners to identify those kids who might be at risk. And all the way to more severe, which is our students who become suicide attempts, survivors, that’s affecting everything,” she says.
Superintendent Mike Penca hopes this isn’t the new normal.
“The students today have grown up post Columbine. They don’t know any different. They’ve grown up with lock-down drills and seeing acts of violence happen around the nation, so I think there was apathy that kind of settled in after Sandy Hook—if we couldn’t see changes after elementary students were shot, nothing will ever change,” he says.
But, he adds, he’s seen a shift in student attitudes since the Florida shooting, moving from apathy to advocacy.
“I think we’re seeing this is really a grassroots movement that students are being so articulate and respectful that’s it’s just sending ripples throughout the country that let’s engage in this dialogue, let’s see if we can come together and do something that really helps students feel more safe in school,” he says.