CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Teachers at Capital High School say they hope a new safety program for students will expand to other schools in Kanawha County.
The school in Charleston hosted its first Safety Symposium for freshman students Thursday. The Symposium focused on different areas of safety including bullying, active shooter situations, drug prevention, health concerns and more.
“We’re scared,” Susie Garrison, curriculum instructor for the Capital’s English Language Arts department, told MetroNews. She said they started the program to address safety concerns felt around the nation.
“We’re worried that things that are going on in the world are not being addressed and not being prepared for. There’s a lot of questions. Kids some to us and have these questions, so we thought it’s never too late to pause and let’s go back over.”
Garrison said the lessons are aimed at increasing mindfulness in an effort to create a safer learning environment.
“It goes down to those two words — awareness and accountability — making sure that it’s okay to go to somebody else,” she said.
Students participated in break out sessions for each safety topic.
Sona Magassouba, a ninth grader at Capital, was part of a discussion about school intruders. She said she wanted to learn more about how to prepare for situations similar to the Parkland, Florida school massacre.
“It’s scary to think ‘what if that happened to my school or what if it happened to one of my friends?'” she said. “They’ve taught us how to correctly go about a situation, each scenario, how to use exits, how to barricade.”
Ian Sears, another freshman student, said his group talked about protecting themselves during a health crisis such as the 2014 water emergency.
“We’re talking about how to survive if a virus or something does go on. It’s way more realistic if a water crisis happens that has already happened or a tornado, flood or something like that,” he said. “We went over what we should take with us and why it would help us.”
The event was specifically for freshman students who are entering high school. Jarod Crowder, who is a senior, said it’s important for the younger students to learn about these possible scenarios.
“Being prepared for any emergency situation that could come up is important. It gets the ninth graders to be engaged on the topic that they normally wouldn’t think about,” Crowder said.
The students first heard from keynote speaker Rick Minniefield about bullying. His discussion was called “If Not Me, Then Who?” He focused on reporting acts of bullying whether it be in school or online.
“Why not report it? Because if you don’t that gives them the means to keep doing it over and over again,” Minniefield said.
Cyber bullying has become a big problem in recent years. Minniefield suggests informing a teacher about the negative comments.
He said it’s also important for students to understand why someone bullies another person.
“Because they were bullied themselves,” Minniefield explained. “They were not feeling confident about themselves and like to bring others down to their level so they can feel like ‘I’m above you,'”
Students also heard from a number of community safety speakers during Thursday’s Symposium.