Entries in School (24)


Newtown, Conn. Shooting: Young Kids, Survivors Cope with Horror

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Witnesses at Sandy Hook Elementary School reported horrific scenes as a shooter took 27 lives today -- the shattering sounds of gunshots, children locked in the bathrooms and parents crying outside in the parking lot.

Experts say that the young children who saw events first-hand can have lasting psychological scars, but those whose home lives are stable and supportive will have fewer long-term scars.

"It was horrific," said Kaitlin Roig, a 29-year-old teacher, who was in a morning meeting when the gunman entered the school.

"Suddenly, I heard rapid fire, like an assault weapon," the first grade teacher told ABC. She rounded up her 14 students and locked them and herself in the bathroom. "I helped kids climb on the toilet dispenser [so they could all fit in].

"I thought we were going to die."

Children in such a situation "are terrified, and they don't have the cognitive or emotional capacities to make sense of this," said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, professor and vice chair of the department of psychiatry at Emory School of Medicine.

"Not that any of us can make any sense of this," said Kaslow. "It's truly inconceivable."

At least 27 people, mostly children under the age of 10, were shot and killed at the K-to-4 school this morning, federal and state sources tell ABC News.

The massacre drew SWAT teams to the school and the town of Newtown locked down all its schools, authorities said day.

According to federal sources, the gunman was identified as Adam Lanza, 20. His mother, who worked at the elementary school, was one of the victims.

One mother named Christine who has a child at Sandy Hook told ABC about the chaos that ensued when she arrived at the school this morning.

"When I got there, there were just parents running into the firehouse because they were directing us there. That's where children had been evacuating to, and we went in and people were just grabbing their children and hugging and crying. There were lots of children crying."

She said another parent who had been at the school at the time was "pretty broken up." Many parents didn't know where their children were.

In 1996 in Dunblane, Scotland, 15 children and a teacher were killed in a similar massacre.

Parents and caregivers play the most important role in a child's recovery from a traumatic event, according to Dr. Gene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"Children need to know that they are safe," he said. "Are people taking care of me? How is this going to affect my life? They need to be reassured."

"Thinking about kids in all disasters, you think about the airlines -- when the oxygen mask drops, you put your mask on first and then help the child next," said Beresin.

"Parents need to take care of themselves first. [The children] need to know you are calm and in control," he said.

Adults and community support is critical, according to Beresin.

Young children who witness violence can have acute or post-traumatic stress disorder. "The immediate reaction is shock and horror," he said.

After events like this, communities typically set up crisis centers in a church or other public place where people can seek professional and spiritual help.

Turn the television off, say experts, but answer your children's questions. Don't disregard an older sibling who is watching the news unfold and is worried. They need assurance, too, he said.

According to Beresin, young children may not have "discreet memories" of the event, but they can still have an emotional reaction, experiencing nightmares or, conversely, emotional numbing, said Beresin.

"Some kids shut down," he said. "They may actually turn off and not want to be hugged or cuddled -- that's a normal response. Some kids are clingy, and others will withdraw."

Kids can also regress in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

Parents should not force a child to open up, but "don't let them be alone," he said.

One way young children can work out problems are through reenactment. "They may be playing a game about shooting and dying, and parents should not stop that," said Beresin. "Let them do it."

Young children can also ask questions that don't directly relate to the event, according to Rahill Briggs, assistant professor of pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"They can ask directly or less directly about guns, or heaven or death or about a pet that died," she said.

In studies of 9/11 one of the findings -- not a surprising one -- after the terrorist attacks was that those who were most directly affected "suffered the most," according to Briggs. Coping with grief long-term depended on the cohesion of the child's family -- "how well the caregiving system responds to distress. When it is proactive, by definition the children do better."

"What was the most incredibly predictive five years out was how everyone was doing before the incident," said Briggs. "It is the same for mental health in general, those who are coping well in their lives before a trauma are the most likely to cope well afterwards -- even if they saw the towers fall."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Connecticut School Shooting: 4 Tips to Help Kids Cope

Douglas Healey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Every parent trying to come to grips with the scope of the tragedy in Connecticut is wondering how to talk to their kids about it.

Alan Kazdin, a professor of child psychology at Yale University, offers four tips for parents to frame that discussion and help their kids cope.

Don’t Over-Talk This

Parents can easily project their own fears onto their kids.   Your kids will likely hear about it, so your child has questions. Answer at the level of the question.  Parents shouldn’t dwell on the tragic nature of it, but don’t be evasive.  Don’t lie, don’t withhold.

Shield Kids from the Media

After 9/11, kids suffered trauma from overexposure to the media.  Child psychologists call it “secondary terrorism.” As parents, we sometimes take the stance that our kids need to be tough and “they might as well know the truth.” But psychologists say they need to be "coddled, cushioned and comforted” now so they can be emotionally stronger later.

Don’t Pull Your Kids Out of School Today

Try to keep as many normal rituals going on as possible.  Go to soccer practice.  Keep that play date.  Kids need to know that this doesn’t directly affect them.

Reassure, Reassure

If your child develops a  fear of school, tell them, “This is so rare. Something this terrible has never happened before. This never happened to mommy’s school. Grownups are doing everything to keep kids safe.”

Remember that through “middle childhood,” kids have normal excessive fears: the dark, sharks, etc. If they say, “I don’t want to go to school,” help them distance themselves from it.

Repeatedly reassure without dismissing their fears and give them a hug. Touch makes a huge difference.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ohio Student Suspended for Growing Out Hair to Donate

Robin Aufderheide(CANTON, Ohio) -- Zachary Aufderheide has run afoul of his Ohio high school's dress code because of his desire to grow his hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love, an organization that provides wigs to needy children who've lost their hair because of medical problems.

Zachary, 17, of Canton is about an inch away from the 10 inches of hair he needs to donate to the organization. Faced with an ultimatum, the Canton South High School junior decided to accept an in-school suspension rather than cut his ponytail.

The minimum length of hair needed for a hairpiece is 10 inches, according the Locks of Love website.

Zachary said he is passionate about donating hair to the organization because he was picked on as a child and now wants to help sick children who might have lost their hair avoid the feelings he experienced when he was teased.

"I was picked on so I know where they're coming from, I know how they feel so I sort of sympathize with them because I've been there," he said Monday.

Zachary's mother, Robin, said she understood and respected the school's dress code, but wanted officials to make an exception in her son's case.

She said her son went to a school board meeting in September, explained what he was doing and asked them to consider allowing him to reach his goal.

She said board members came up to him after the meeting and commended his efforts, but said the board had voted to uphold the school's dress code, without giving him an explanation.

The school's principal told her son he had until Monday to get his hair cut, she said.

"And we didn't do it. We didn't do it. I measured it and he's got, oh, less than an inch to grow …," she said.

The school's principal, Todd Osborn, has not replied to requests for comment placed by ABC News as of this writing.

Robin Aufderheide said she was surprised by the board's decision, but her son wasn't.

"I feel pretty disappointed with their decision because, honestly, I really put a lot of heart and soul into my demonstration, like, my presentation of the idea to them, and then when they just all unanimously voted against it … it was just kind of heartbreaking to me," he said.

According to the dress code in the Canton Local School District's student handbook, "Hair for male students shall be neat and clean and shall not be worn covering the eyes, in a ponytail, or extending beyond the bottom of the regular shirt collar."

Zachary isn't sure what will happen after the two-day suspension ends, but says if he cut his hair before reaching his goal, "then, personally, that would be admitting defeat to them. It would be meaning that I would just give up on what I view as important to myself. So this is more or less like a battle of my morals and my values, really."

After he donates his hair, he said, he'll be happy to maintain it at regulation length.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boy Ordered to Transfer Schools for Carrying Cystic Fibrosis Gene

John Coletti/Getty Images(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- A California middle school has asked that an 11-year-old boy be transferred elsewhere because he carries the gene for cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that is not considered contagious.  His parents say they will take the issue to court.

School administrators told Colman Chadam he needed to transfer from Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto, Calif., because he was considered a risk to another student at the school who has the disease, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“Based on the advice of medical experts, this is the zero risk option, and most certainly helps our District deliver on its commitment to provide safe learning environments,” Charles Young, associate superintendent of education service at the Palo Alto Unified School District, said in a written statement to ABC News.

Colman’s parents are going to court to dispute the transfer, claiming their sixth grade son poses no threat to the school or other students.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic lung disease characterized by uncontrollable buildup of mucus in the airways, digestive tract and pancreas.

An estimated 30,000 children and adults have cystic fibrosis, and 10 million more are carriers of the cystic fibrosis gene, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

While Colman may be at higher risk for lung infections, he poses no risk to children without cystic fibrosis or those who do not have the gene for the disease.  However, researchers say it may be risky for him to encounter someone who does have the disease.

Exposure can cause bacterial cross-contamination and a higher risk for infections among people who are carriers of the gene or who have the disease, according to a paper published in 2003 by Dr. Lisa Saiman, a professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

School administrators said the school already had a student with cystic fibrosis before Colman arrived.

Colman’s mother, Jennifer Chadam, told the San Francisco Chronicle that she listed Colman’s genetic condition on his school health form.  She said he has previously attended two other schools with children who have cystic fibrosis.

“They made this decision without seeing one medical record on my son,” Jennifer Chadam told the Chronicle.

According to Dr. John LiPuma, director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Burkholderia cepacia Research Laboratory and Repository at the University of Michigan, there are many children who carry genes for a disease they will never go on to develop.

“Given this school’s strategy, they would need to reassign about 5 percent of their student body to another school,”  he said.

But Young said the administration said they are not willing to take chances.

“The harsh reality of a busy middle school campus, where students ranging in ages from 12 to 15 share a cafeteria, restrooms, the gym and locker room, a library and other settings, is that it might be virtually impossible to maintain a specified separation and sanitation protocols at all times,” Young wrote.

Carriers and children with cystic fibrosis can attend the same school as long as they are not placed in the same classroom or stay at least three feet away from each other, according to infection control guidelines from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

However, LiPuma said, with proper hygiene, it’s highly unlikely that any infection will occur, even if students come in close contact.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


School Snack Laws Effective in Curbing Weight Gain, Study Finds

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- State laws that curb the sale of junk food in schools may be helping combat childhood obesity, according to the findings of a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

In the first national study to measure the effectiveness of state laws that curb the sale of sugary snacks and drinks, researchers found that kids in grades five through eight who lived in states with stronger laws actually gained less weight than kids in states without them.

“[I]t really shows that there can be an effect -- a positive effect -- by curbing the sale of junk food and sweetened drinks,” said Dr. Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Ayoob was not involved in the study.

These findings, though not considered hard proof because the differences were slight, are increasing optimism among public health experts. Ayoob says states that do not have laws limiting the consumption of junk food and low nutrient drinks in schools might want to consider adopting legislation that would do so.

And while curbing junk food in school is a good start, it’s critical that healthy habits extend beyond the classroom, Ayoob says. “That's where maybe parents can have a bigger impact.”

The study was conducted over three years and involved more than 6,000 kids in 40 states.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids with Healthy Hearts and Lungs Get Better Grades?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- It's August already and as summer vacation winds down toward the new school term, a new study reveals the link between good grades and good health. Students with healthy hearts and lungs fare better in math and reading, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention.
Researchers studied some 1,200 students from five Texas middle schools whose average age was 12. The participants were evaluated for cardio-vascular fitness, academic performance, self-esteem and social support.
The study authors found that the only consistent factor that had a positive effect on their grades was cardio-vascular fitness.   

“Cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor that we consistently found to have an impact on both boys’ and girls’ grades on reading and math tests,” study co-author Trent A. Petrie, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas said in a statement. “This provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students’ involvement in physical education classes.”
The study also showed that students perform better in reading when family and friends provide reliable social support to help in problem solving and dealing with emotions.  The results were not the same for math, however, where cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor related to positive performance.

Though the study does not show a clear causal relationship between fitness and academics (students who are motivated to be physically fit could actually just be students who possess academic motivation as well), the authors conclude that the relationship of physical fitness and academic performance is one that is independent of other factors, and schools should work to develop better fitness programs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


School Breakfast Programs Panned for Feeding Kids Twice

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Breakfast programs in New York City schools have come under attack for feeding schoolchildren who might have already eaten at home.

While the programs provide healthy choices such as cereal, yogurt and fresh fruit, they also offer French toast and syrup and huge New York style bagels with cream cheese.  On top of that, some kids admit to eating twice -- once at home and once at school -- which experts say reflects a national culture of consumption and could be contributing to childhood obesity.

“If there’s food, we eat it. We don’t have to be hungry, and it doesn’t have to be meal time,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “If we’re raising kids to think of food that way, then we really do have to worry about some kids having breakfast twice.”

More than one-third of the nation's children and teenagers are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The extra weight, caused in part by an excess of calories and a lack of exercise, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as psychological problems linked to low self-esteem.

“Throughout most of history, calories were hard to get and physical activity was unavoidable. But we’ve developed a world where physical activity is hard to get and calories are unavoidable. And our culture hasn’t adjusted accordingly,” said Katz.

The goal of the breakfast programs is to feed students whose families struggle to consistently put that first meal of the day on the table.

“Hunger in the U.S. often means food insecurity, it doesn’t necessarily mean emaciation,” said Katz. “We really do have dueling nutritional problems in this country. We have kids who are both hungry and obese.”

Katz said part of the problem is the less-healthy treats on the New York City Department of Education’s morning menu, such as the crispy waffles with syrup, muffins and cheese strings.

“Cheese strings? That’s not breakfast, that’s a fun snack,” said Katz. “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry. Other food might be more fun but that’s not the purpose of the program.”

But Keith Ayoob, director of the Rose R. Kennedy Center Nutrition Clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said the programs aren’t the problem.

“There is a mountain of research that shows school breakfasts, and particularly breakfast in the classroom, have positive outcomes,” he said, describing a drop in truancy, behavior problems and visits to the school nurse as well as an improvement in grades. “School breakfasts are not making kids overweight. If they’re eating two breakfasts, parents need to know that and adjust accordingly at home.”

Speaking to the New York Academy of Medicine Thursday, Ayoob defended breakfast programs and stressed the importance of parents keeping track of what their kids are eating.

“We don’t want some kids going hungry just because some kids are overeating,” he said. “A child getting two breakfasts is a much easier fix.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids Fail Less When They Know Failure Is Part of Learning

Fuse/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Kids perform better in school if they know failure, and trying again, is part of the learning process, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

The research included several experiments intended to see whether parents and teachers can help students succeed by changing the way learning material is presented to them.  Study experiments included anagram problems and reading comprehension, and researchers found that kids who were told it’s normal to fail and try again did better on the tests than those who did not receive such a pep talk.

“In this research, we showed that helping children to interpret difficulty, not as a sign of intellectual limitation but as the normal learning outcome, improved their performance on very demanding and difficult tasks and reduced their feelings of incompetence,” said study co-author Frederique Autin, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Poitiers in Poitiers, France.  “What our data revealed is that reorienting the interpretation of difficulty boosted children’s working memory, that is the ability to process and remember information.”

“Experiencing difficulty when we work on a demanding problem may raise the possibility that we are not that smart after all,” said Jean-Claude Croizet, co-author of the study.  “Difficulty makes us nervous because it is often associated with lower ability.”

One experiment included 111 French school children ages 11 and 12.  They were given a difficult anagram problem that was too difficult for any of them to solve.  Afterwards, researchers told half the kids that failure is common and to be expected when learning.  The other group were simply asked how they tried to solve the problem by the researchers.  The group that received the pep talk scored better on further tests than the group of kids who did not receive the talk.

“Fear of failing can hijack the working memory resources, a core component of intellectual ability,” the researchers said.  “Fear of failing not only hampers performance, it can also lead students to avoid difficulty and therefore the opportunities to develop new skills.  Because difficulty is inherent to most academic tasks, our goal was to create a safer performance environment where experiencing difficulty would not be associated with lower ability.”

“Indeed, those who are smart succeed,” Autin said.  “This is what we often believe.  But science tells a different story.  Believing that success reflects higher ability and failure lower competence is not only wrong, but we show that it is detrimental to intellectual efficiency during challenging tasks.”

While the researchers noted the students’ improvement on tests was likely temporary, working memory may get a boost from a simple dose of self-confidence.  The researchers said teachers and parents should provide positive reinforcement and point out kids’ progress rather than test scores.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Academic Performance Linked to Physical Activity, Study Finds

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(AMSTERDAM) -- A healthy body means a healthy mind, and according to a new report by a group of Dutch researchers, there's some truth to that old adage.

Spending more time in the classroom and less time playing outside may, in fact, be the absolutely wrong choice when it comes to getting better grades.
According to a review of multiple studies, published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, there is "strong evidence" linking better grades to physical activity.
Researchers looked at 14 previous studies -- most conducted in the United States that involved more than 12,000 children between the ages of 6 and 18 -- and found that "participation in physical activity is positively related to academic performance."
There could be several reasons why.

Exercise may:

  1. Increase blood and oxygen flow to the brain.
  2. Reduce stress and improve mood, making children more likely to behave in the classroom.
  3. Improve concentration and discipline. Simply put, children who participate in sports learn to obey rules.

Because not all the studies reviewed were considered "high-quality," the authors call for future research to confirm their findings.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


School: HIV Student 'Health and Safety' Issue

Bananastock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Hershey, Pa., boarding school that denied an HIV-positive 13-year-old boy entry said Friday that the school's residential setting and the risk of sexual activity made the teen too much of a "threat."

The AIDS Law Project filed suit on behalf of the unidentified boy Wednesday in Philadelphia District Court, alleging that the Milton Hershey School violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which includes HIV in its scope.

"This young man is a motivated, intelligent kid who poses no health risk to other students, but is being denied an educational opportunity because of ignorance and fear about HIV and AIDS," said Ronda Goldfein, the boy's lawyer.

Connie McNamara, spokesperson for the Milton Hershey School, told ABC News the school carefully evaluated the situation and the needs of its 1,850 students which span from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

"We had to balance his rights and interests with our obligation to provide for the health and safety of other students," she said. "And this meets a direct threat."

McNamara knows well that coughing, hugging, and public restrooms won't cause someone to get HIV.

She said the school was most worried the boy would have sex -- if not now, at some point in his future years at the school, where students in groups of 10-12 live together in on-campus housing.

"Our kids are no different than teenagers anywhere else," she said. "Despite encouraging abstinence, we cannot be 100 percent certain our kids are not engaging in sexual activity."

Even making sure the boy and students were educated on how HIV is transmitted wasn't enough for the school to grant the teen admission.

The idea that anyone could be denied entry based on a disability is astounding, said Arthur Caplan, the Director of the Pennsylvania Center For Bioethics.

"This notion that you can't put him in residential housing at a school because he is a vector of death is a throwback to 1987 when people were worried you couldn't mainstream children in any school," he said. "It sets back what we know to be true about the disease."

Caplan suggested the school use this as a teaching opportunity to educate students about HIV.

Even the school seemed a bit conflicted during the application process. McNamara provided ABC News with a court document the school planned to file before the lawsuit, asking a judge to weigh in and make sure they were within the bounds of the law.

"We looked at the law and our unique program and made the best decision we could," she said. "Our heart goes out to this young man."

The Milton Hershey School was founded in 1909 by the chocolate magnate whose name it bears. The school was originally intended to house white male orphans but now has a diverse student body hailing from all over the United States. Students must come from low income families in order to be considered for admission.

Caplan said the case reminds him of Ryan White, the teenager who became the face of the AIDs virus in the 1980s after being kicked out of school for fear it would spread through everyday contact.

"I think they'll lose the lawsuit," he said. " So they better get ready to figure out how they're going to accept him."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio