HAZLETON — Attorney General Michelle Henry this morning met with Hazleton High School students and district officials to discuss the impacts of gun violence on student mental health and well-being.
Wednesday’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, Allegheny, and Dauphin 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 Luzerne 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 roundtable were Hazleton Area School District Superintendent, Dr. Brian Uplinger and Hazleton High School Principal, Dr. Anthony Conston, along with other school officials and psychologists.
“On behalf of the Hazleton Area School District, I would like to thank Attorney General Michelle Henry for joining us in a crucial conversation about gun violence’s impact on student mental health,” Dr. Brian T. Uplinger, Superintendent of Hazleton Area School District, said. “Your presence today signifies a shared commitment to creating both physical and mental spaces that are safer and more secure for our students. The Attorney General’s dedication to addressing this issue is deeply appreciated and will help create real solutions that prioritize the well-being of our school community. Working together, we can make a significant difference in the lives of our students.”
The Hazleton High School students shared some of their personal experiences with gun violence and how those experiences make them fearful and stressed. They explained how it can be challenging to speak about these experiences because there is a fear of retaliation, it is a polarizing topic, and can be emotional.
The students also spoke about the negative influence that social media and traditional media has on young people and the need for better monitoring and regulation from adults.
Access to peer support groups, a trained counselor, or trusted teacher can be therapeutic in processing incidents of violence, the students told Attorney General Henry. They shared that it can be helpful when adults are proactive in addressing the issue, but the most important things are to establish trust, offer a variety of resources, and be accommodating to each individual’s needs.
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. Hazleton Area School District is one of many school districts participating in the Safe2Say Something program.
The students said they liked the format of Wednesday’s roundtable and are more comfortable sharing their feelings with small groups, so everyone can be heard.
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