School Climate & Safety

Principal Addresses Student Fears After Shootings at Minneapolis Protests

By Evie Blad — November 25, 2015 2 min read
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Minneapolis has been in a state of turmoil this week after five protesters were shot Monday night. Protesters have been camping out near one of the city’s police precincts for more than a week, seeking answers after a white city police officer fatally shot Jamar Clark, 24, an unarmed black man, on Nov. 15.

It’s a situation that’s sure to create some uneasiness for children who live near the protests. They may not understand the entire situation, but they’ve surely picked up on fragments and seen concern in the faces of adults they trust.

That’s why Mauri Melander, the principal of an elementary school located near the police precinct, chose to acknowledge the violence in her morning announcement to students Tuesday. A video journalist from NBC affiliate KARE was at the school to film unrelated interviews, and he captured the message, the station reports.

“This morning, our hearts are heavy, and we feel deeply for the pain that’s happening in our community,” Melander said. “So students, I need you to know full well that, as your principal, that feeling of heaviness sits deep within me.”

Schools take a variety of approaches to addressing traumatic local situations with students. Cleveland schools prepared for a high-profile police shooting verdict earlier this year by making plans for classroom discussions with students. Baltimore schools closed for a day after unrest surrounding Freddie Gray, a man who had died in police custody. Upon re-opening, the district planned activities to help students of various ages process their experiences.

And schools in high-crime, high-poverty areas make choices everyday about how to help students understand the trauma that has become a regular part of their lives. Some use interventions like restorative circles to help students build trusting relationships with adults in schools. Others work with community groups to provide stability for students.

What do you think of Melander’s announcement? Have you seen a noteworthy example of schools helping students confront difficult events?

Further reading on social-emotional learning and traumatic events:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.