When we think about school safety we think about things like guns and bullying. The problem is so much greater in scope. Our children are showing signs of anxiety and depression at a very young age. The following passages are from the book Creating Emotionally Safe Schools, by Jane Bluestein, PhD.
“Safety in schools is about more than violence. It’s an issue for the student terrified of being called on in class or the child afraid of being harassed on the playground. It’s an issue for children who don’t test well, for children who learn by touching and moving, for children whose strengths lie in areas not assessed or valued in schools. It’s an issue for the child who is not noticed, the child nobody will play with, and for the child that looks different. We sacrifice safety when we fail to notice a child in distress or ignore hurtful behavior or when we use tests or grades to punish.
A safe environment is one that reduces these and other stressful occurrences. Under stress our bodies cannot function at their best. If students always have their defenses up to protect themselves there is very little energy left for schoolwork or any other meaningful activities. Stress and anxiety block learning. When responding to stress or a perceived threat, chemicals, such as cortisol, are released into the system. This causes mental static, sabotaging the prefrontal lobes, keeping them from maintaining working memory. You have probably experienced what it feels like to not be able to “think straight” when you are upset. Many other physiological symptoms may occur including dry mouth, increased heart rate, intestinal distress, and dizziness, just to name a few.
Daniel Goleman has stated that even one exposure to a traumatic incident can bring about a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Students with PTSD are constantly in a state of hyper vigilance. They are always surveying their environment for danger. Other symptoms may include lying, aggression, sleep problems, impulsivity, fear, confusion and unhappiness. It’s no wonder they are unable to concentrate on anything else.”