Voices: Collaborative healing for Colorado schools after shootings

Writer Diana Kurniawan points to some local resources that she argues could help prevent school violence like the shootings at Arapahoe High School in the future. 

The year was 1992, with fumes of smoke and soot from the burned buildings and homes from the Los Angeles Riot caused me to choke and cough as I walked out to the row of school buses. The local Crips and Hoods gangsters were shooting at our school windows just hours before I came out of the school, and I just came out of that class, after having to duck and cover my head to prevent from being shot in Spanish class. The violence from the environment in California reverberates to students in its local districts, and life for students like me, was disturbing.

On 12:30 p.m. on December 13, 2013, a Friday afternoon, as I was sitting to write my earnest work, NBC 9News Channel broke my attention with grim images of Arapahoe High School students with hands up in the air, walking in a straight line to evacuate from harm. A Colorado high school has just experienced another school shooting with a self-inflicted gunshot suicide as a result.

Sadly, I expected this from schools in East Los Angeles, as I recalled when I was in high school at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet, entering high school with metal detectors or over hearing tips being given to our vice principal about guns in students’ lockers. I am dreading the day that metal detectors will be installed in Colorado high schools, that gangsters will shoot at school windows or riots will disturb students’ lives. Yet, in Colorado, school shootings seems to have occurred more than just at Columbine.

These are dire times, and with these fragile moments, Colorado needs significant helping hands from the experts. I cannot endure another depressing episode of watching more news of children critically wounded for just attending high school on a random day.

My wish this Christmas is for the victims and students of Arapahoe High School and schools in the Colorado area in general, to collaborate with local violence prevention non-profit organizations. Such as: The Denver Center for Crime Victims, Project PAVE and The Conflict Center. These organizations have counselors and groups to help students who have experienced trauma of all forms, especially inter-personal, physical and mental abuse or violence. The preventions efforts on how to curb their trauma and how to recover from incidents such as school shootings will be detrimental for the students’ well-being.

Now that school shootings have ravaged students in random sequence in Colorado, I can’t help but to offer this conjecture for Colorado high schools. The Conflict Center helps with social and emotional learning for students and they are available for contract work or permanent collaboration with Colorado public schools, while Project PAVE has social workers and counselors who can give counseling, one-on-one or group therapy for students who have felt tragedies or shock from violence. Denver Center for Crime Victims has programs for families and children in groups or individuals and there is no shame in asking for help from these gentle giants to help our students with our current situations.

Why not invest on the existing help that Colorado has in the local area to help our children from the effects of school shootings, domestic violence, teen dating violence, or abuse in general? The domino effect of post-traumatic-stress-disorder is a real possibility with this much suffering for our students today. I remembered the principal at Bravo High held a school wide time out, to talk about our perceptions and our feelings. Those were the methods to engage on therapy for a mass number of pupil at a local school because non-profits for violence prevention were not prominent.

It is extremely critical for Colorado to know that our students need help. It is time to reach out and why not reach out to the experts who can help with more compassion and skills as the Conflict Center, Project PAVE and the Denver Center for Crime Victims? The students at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet during my school years were so affected that race segregations were apparent and there were fights inside the cafeteria.

Reaching out does not equal helplessness or the failure of a school system, instead it is simply saying: I love my Colorado students and let’s help one another.

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