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K-State Today

December 13, 2013



Sandy Hook shooting prompts action in College of Education

By Patrice Scott

On Saturday, the country commemorates an unthinkable milestone: the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 26 children and teachers.

The College of Education is taking a proactive role by addressing school safety at many levels. Robert Hachiya, assistant professor of educational leadership, recently presented “In the Aftermath of Sandy Hook: Revisiting What Works and What Doesn’t Work to Prevent School Violence” at the Education Law Association annual convention in Westminster, Colo.

“There is a body of research that shows what prevents violence in schools,” Hachiya said. “We need to not let the discussion get hijacked for political purposes and focus on what really works. As the College of Education, we are the leaders and have an obligation to advocate what we know are most likely to keep teachers and students safe.”

Schools can take preventive action by taking some important steps: 1. Building relationships with students. “That’s the key element,” Hachiya said; 2. Conducting regular safety and security audits, and drills; 3. Having strong anti-violence and anti-bullying programs; and 4. Creating a positive school climate with open communication.

Hachiya said it’s imperative to understand the differences between the shootings at Sandy Hook, which was perpetrated by lone gunman Adam Lanza; the shooting at Columbine High School; and the shooting at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colo.

“Adam Lanza was an outsider and that brought a completely different dynamic to the shooting whereas at Columbine it was students from the school who carried out the shooting,” he said.

In addition to Hachiya’s interest in school safety, two faculty members organized a safety event this fall and more than 100 preservice teachers attended. Lotta Larson, associate professor, and Tonnie Martinez, assistant professor, brought in speakers from the K-State Police Department, weapons safety experts and combative teams. The program addressed issues ranging from evading an attacker to what teachers should do if they find a weapon at school. 

“I think the high student turnout was for two reasons: First, there had been an incident of violence on the campus and our preservice teachers wanted information to enhance their personal safety skills,” Martinez said. “Second, because schools are a reflection of society, our students know that even the best educational environments may experience events that turn violent, and they will be expected to respond in a reasonable, professional and prudent manner.”