Opinion
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor

School Violence Coverage Should Be Measured, Limited

January 28, 2014 2 min read

To the Editor:

I commend the media for respecting the wishes of those in Newtown, Conn., by staying away from this community on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. (“Media Restraint on Newtown Anniversary?,” Education and the Media, www.edweek.org, Dec. 12, 2013). Hopefully it can be a starting point for addressing the overwhelming issue of school shootings that have persisted in our country.

As the superintendent of a school district in Wisconsin, I tell our staff, faculty, and students that having a well-rehearsed comprehensive emergency plan is only a start. We need to be vigilant and aware of unusual behavior of anyone who comes to our schools, which includes students and parents.

When I was in high school in the 1970s, an older schoolmate of mine committed suicide. I recall that the funeral was held in the school auditorium and covered by the local media.

We later learned that by publicly glorifying such stories, by putting their faces and life stories in the media, we may have been inadvertently feeding and encouraging the same actions by other teens who contemplated suicide. For the most part, we no longer publicize information about individuals who commit suicide. I applaud the media for choosing to step back and avoid drawing attention to these deaths.

If the media adopted the practice of dealing with mass shootings in a similar fashion, the number of subsequent occurrences may decrease. The recent shootings at Colorado’s Arapahoe High School, however, attracted the usual media attention. The shooter was quickly identified. A picture of the shooter, with a smiling face, sporting a shirt and tie, has appeared countless times in news reports.

I believe the media want to do what is best for our society and report the news as fairly and accurately as possible. Journalists have proven they can balance the need to report and cover news events with the need to enhance safety for everyone in the future.

We need to stop giving unnecessary coverage to these incidents, or we risk providing a platform for despicable notoriety for the impulsive person who contemplates the next evil plot.

Ronald J. Walsh

Superintendent

Elk Mound Area School District

Elk Mound, Wis.

The author serves on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, which recently named him Wisconsin’s 2014 superintendent of the year.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 2014 edition of Education Week as School Violence Coverage Should Be Measured, Limited

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Proms During COVID-19: 'Un-Proms', 'Non-Proms', and Masquerades
High school proms are back in this second spring of COVID-19, though they may not look much like the traditional, pre-pandemic versions.
7 min read
Affton Missouri UnProm
Affton High School students attend a drive-in theater "un-prom" in Missouri on April 18.
Photo Courtesy of Deann Myers
School Climate & Safety Opinion 5 Things to Expect When Schools Return to In-Person Learning
Many schools are just coming back to in-person learning. There are five issues all school communities should anticipate when that happens.
Matt Fleming
5 min read
shutterstock 1051475696
Shutterstock
School Climate & Safety What the Research Says 'High-Surveillance' Schools Lead to More Suspensions, Lower Achievement
Cameras, drug sweeps, and other surveillance increase exclusionary discipline, regardless of actual student misbehavior, new research finds.
5 min read
New research suggests such surveillance systems may increase discipline disparities.
Motortion/iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center Rising Numbers of Educators Say Pandemic Is Now Blown Out of Proportion, Survey Shows
An EdWeek Research Center survey shows that nearly 3 of every 10 educators believe the pandemic is no longer a real threat to schools.
4 min read
A sign that reads "SOCIAL DISTANCE MAINTAIN 6 FT" was posted on a student locker at a school in Baldwin, N.Y., at the beginning of the school year. But a new survey shows educators' concerns about the pandemic are declining.
A sign that reads "SOCIAL DISTANCE MAINTAIN 6 FT" was posted on a student locker at a school in Baldwin, N.Y., at the beginning of the school year. But a new survey shows educators' concerns about the pandemic are declining.<br/>
Mark Lennihan/AP