The ripple effect 2 decades after Columbine


Students around the nation, including Wichita, are dealing with the psychological effects of Columbine and other mass shootings with active shooter drills being prevalent. 

One former student at Southeast High School in Wichita said when he was in school it wasn't a fear he thought about constantly, but it was still in the back of his mind as he feared for those younger than him.

"It made me sad knowing that, especially peers, or just children younger than me going to elementary school, middle school," said Matthew Salas. "Like, my younger cousins just, they go to school like not knowing if they'll make it out."

According to one psychologist, the more it happens, and the more those students witness these events in person or on the news, the more it affects them.

"It changes you in some fundamental ways," said Dr. Molly Allen, a practicing psychologist for almost 25 years.

She said although the chances of it happening are very low, some students may be more affected than others.

"There are some kids who are pretty sensitive or who are tuned in really well to all those kind of news things that whenever it happens in the news, then they're completely stressed out about that," Allen said. "And that's all that they can think about and they're just certain that they're going to be the next one."

In an article from The Atlantic, they describe an instance in which one school went beyond a normal drill by not alerting the teachers or students that there was going to be a drill. The article said, "two gunmen barreled down the school’s hallway with a pistol and AR-15, was real. Turns out the shooters were local police officers yelling, "This is a drill!"—but that didn’t stop many students from texting their parents hysterically, telling them they feared for their lives." According to Allen, this isn't a good idea.

"Bad idea, very bad idea, because then you had a lot of freaked out kids," Allen said.

She said these drills are better when handled in a calm way. According to Wichita Public Schools, that's how they handle their active shooter drills.

"We know, for people to be successful in any type of crisis situation, one of the most important things to do is to remain calm," said Terri Moses, division director of safety at Wichita Public Schools.

Moses also mentioned preventative things before the shootings occur like the "See Something, Say Something" when it comes to helping students that look distressed, or if you feel they might do something then telling a staff member. Along with that she said technology has evolved so much and quick reaction technology can be used as well to prevent mass shootings.

According to Allen, no matter what the drill is, as long as it is directed in a calm way, it should teach the students to react and not panic.

"It's a matter of just normalize the experience," she said. "OK, you know, your teacher is going to direct you where you need to go, you know, give the kids a sense of power and purpose over it."

By this she said she meant giving kids certain tasks and opportunities to lead in these situations without elevating them above the other students. She said in doing this, it gives them that sense of power and purpose and a feeling of helping one another.