Legal Analyst, Youth Crisis Specialist Discuss School Shootings

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With school shootings a hot topic of conversation, many are asking about warning signs and if anything can be done to prevent senseless tragedies.

Right now, we're seeing a surge of school threats not only across the country, but within our own community.

NBC29 legal analyst Lloyd Snook and a representative from a health resource center are weighing in on what parents and kids need to know about this issue.

In just a week since the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, there have been threats made in Harrisonburg, Louisa, and Augusta County schools.

“There’s a lot of copycat activity - somebody does it, somebody else does it - and so that’s one of the reasons why they are particularly anxious to try to impress on everybody that this is serious and we're going to come down on you with both feet,” says Snook.

On Tuesday, February 20, both Harrisonburg police and the Louisa County Sheriff's Office arrested students for making threats. Both were charged with a Class 6 felony.

Another example is from January, when a student posted a photo on Snapchat that read "don't go to school tomorrow @mhs students" over an image of an arsenal of guns. Many took that picture as a threat for Monticello High School.

"People all over Facebook were going crazy over, 'gee, what's MHS and what's going to happen,’” says Snook.

Investigators say charges are pending against the person who posted the photo in what they have determined as a hoax.

Lori Wood, who works at Region Ten in its youth crisis services, says it's important to have an open conversation with your kids about all kinds of social media.

“We think of social media as an actual place so just like if they were going to the mall, you'd want to know which mall they're going to, who they're going with, how long they expect to stay there," says Wood.

Region Ten says talking about traumatic events like the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, can be difficult but it’s important to let kids know they have resources to turn to when needed.

“If it’s a child noticing another child that they are concerned about, finding a trusted adult - whether that’s school, or home, family, community,” says Wood.

Region Ten says to pay attention to changes in behavior or mood and that the phrase "see something say something" really rings true in these types of situations.

“It sounds very basic, but doing that level of connectedness and support actually then weaves our support systems together in a way that makes for a very strong community,” says Wood.

Every month, Region Ten does mental health first aid training for anyone who wants to learn more about mental health issues. It also offers training for first responders, clergy, and school counselors in an event of a trauma.

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