STEELTON — Attorney General Michelle Henry this morning met with Steelton-Highspire High School students and district officials to discuss the impacts of gun violence on student mental health and well-being.
Friday’s roundtable was the latest in a series of meetings the Attorney General is having with students across the state, previously having met with students in Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties. Attorney General Henry listened to students as they shared experiences, along with feelings of frustration at having to adapt to regular occurrences of gun violence in their communities.
The goal of the roundtables is to work with students to create a report with recommendations on ways in which the Office of Attorney General, together with other policymakers and officials, can improve the mental health of young people in a world in which violence is reality.
“Gun violence is an epidemic that affects the lives of Pennsylvanians every single day — and it impacts each community differently,” Attorney General Henry said. “Gun violence not only kills and leaves physical wounds, it also harms loved ones beneath the surface by impeding mental wellness. I am here in Dauphin County to hear directly from these students about the damage violent incidents are causing them, their families, and their social circles.”
In attendance at the Friday roundtable were Lena Cordero, Steelton-Highspire High School Principal; Tarah Gross, Steelton-Highspire High School Assistant Principal; Dr. Mick Iskric, Jr., Ed.D, Steelton-Highspire Superintendent; Willie Slade, Steelton-Highspire Assistant Superintendent; Michelle Warner, Transition Coordinator and Case Manager; and Dr. Dana Milakovic, PsyD, Office for Safe Schools, PA Dept of Education.
“Student mental health and safety is a top priority of the Steelton-Highspire School District. We are extremely grateful to Attorney General Michelle Henry and her willingness to come speak with our students to have conversations about external factors that may be affecting their everyday lives. Allowing students to have a seat at the table to discuss important topics such as gun violence, will allow Pennsylvania entities to take proactive approaches to curbing some of the challenges our children face on a daily basis,” said Dr. Mick Iskric, Jr., Ed.D, Superintendent, Steelton-Highspire School District.
The Steelton-Highspire High School students shared some of their personal experiences with violence and how those experiences make them fearful and stressed. Having someone to speak with is helpful in coping, the students shared.
School can be therapeutic in helping process incidents of violence because most kids have a teacher or counselor they can speak to, the students told Attorney General Henry. The students shared that they feel safer when security protocols are in place, and they would like to be involved in discussions about those protocols and their effectiveness.
Students expressed a need for anonymous reporting outlets, because kids being bullied do not discuss their feelings publicly. The students were offered pamphlets about Safe 2 Say Something, an Office of Attorney General program that allows students to text message or use an app to report their concerns. Steelton-Highspire School District is one of many school districts participating in the Safe2Say Something program.
The students said they liked the format of Friday’s roundtable and are more comfortable sharing their feelings with small groups, so everyone can be heard.
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