‘It causes trauma’: School leaders, parents concerned for kids’ mental health with recent threats

Savannah, J.A.; (Wsaf) – “I would never have thought I’d talk to my daughter about if a gentleman comes with a gun what do I do.”

Jacqueline Pedanek, a Beaufort County school parent, describes the conversation she had with her 8-year-old about threats of gun violence at local schools.

“I literally had to tell her because she’s going to pick up bits and bits of things being said, she’s not going to die, she’s not going to get injured, she’s going to be okay because she’s going to really analyze it,” Bedanik said.

In the past two weeks, News3 has reported that seven schools in the area are receiving threats. Parents say it’s a heartbreaking and frightening pattern.

On Friday, counties across the country were watching a clear trend of TikTok threatening school violence. Locally, educational departments have not reported any incidents related to the rumor.

As a parent, Bedanek said there is always a sense of panic about whether her children’s school will be the next hit.

Another mother, who asked not to be named, has kept her children at home several times this year out of fear of a threat.

“They are tired of it. It is traumatic and causes anxiety problems with these children,” the mother said. “This constant fear of ‘what if?’ with these school shootings is unwarranted.”

The threats of school violence are alarming and have an emotional impact on students and staff, said Dr. Quentina Miller Fields, Director of Student Affairs at SCCPSS.

“They’re worried. They’re scared. They’re not sure if it’s pranks or real,” Miller Fields said.

Miller Fields said it’s important for parents to check in with their children frequently — and encourage students to speak up.

“Being open, having an open dialogue doesn’t necessarily prove that you’re afraid of anyone,” she said. “But it’s an attempt to make sure that you support and protect yourself, and maybe you support and protect others as well.”

Police in Bluffton and Statesboro have charged suspects in connection with the threats to schools. School districts, including SCCPSS, said they take each threat seriously and aim to send a strong message.

“Students involved in this bad behavior – this bad behavior is a joke – we say think twice before you act once,” Miller Fields said. “Because what you do can have serious consequences.”

Ultimately, Miller Fields said communication is the most important strategy for supporting students’ mental health.

“Connect with those who can help you,” she said. “Yes, it is fine to tell a friend who might tell an adult who is helping them, but you are definitely the first line of communication. Connect with your teachers and connect with guidance counselors and also connect with your parents.”

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