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WVU Panel Discusses Sandy Hook School Tragedy

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MORGANTOWN -

The Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting happened a little more than a month ago. On Thursday, West Virginia University held a panel discussion about the shooting and school violence.

WVU's College of Education and Human Services held the panel to help the community understand what happened at Sandy Hook. School leaders, current and future teachers all attended the event to not only learn how to cope with a crisis like Sandy Hook but possibly prevent it.

Dashel Wright is a pre-secondary education student at West Virginia University. She attended the discussion for class but said it's necessary for her to know about these things.

"This is something that affects all of us as American citizens, and as a future teacher, I feel like I should be informed about the situation because it can happen anywhere, anytime," said Wright.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary hit home for a lot of people. Some thought about how they could prevent or deal with a tragedy that happened at a school near home.

Jane DeVaul is a principal at Blackshere Elementary School in Marion County. She went to the panel to find out what she can do to help her students.

"I think that it is very good that we have all aspects of people coming together to talk about this . It has affected everyone, not just the people in the school building," said DeVaul. "I think the lines of communication need to open up, and we need to hear from some experts, like the ones on the panel that can give us some guidance."

Other community members asked questions and listened to the different ways to help children of all ages cope with tragedy. One way is to use art to help them tell their feelings.

The panel described art as an easy way for someone who is not trained to help kids express feelings and monitor their progress.

WVU faculty members attended the discussion to see how they can learn more about teaching students to cope.

"This is something new for me, this is something new for everybody and we all can learn from this," said Stephanie Lorenze of WVU. "So when I walk out of the doors today I hope it's something that I can translate into even things like social and emotional needs for children in schools today."

Panelist Jeff Daniels brought a different aspect to the discussion. He goes to schools that prevented a shooting and finds out what they did to stop it.

"These events, while they're very tragic, are still statistically very rare," said Daniels. "They account for less than one percent of youth and adolescent deaths each year in the United States. So schools still are the safest place for our kids to be."

The panel made sure it focused on how teachers can help students handle any crisis situation.

"There's all kinds of crisis out there that we have to deal with that traumatized children and traumatize staff," DeVaul said. "I think it's good that we just talked about how do you handle a situation period. And it's a new world out there, we have to handle things differently."

The panel was made up of five professors all from counseling, education, or child development. The discussion was not about politics but how to keep schools safe from violence.