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School Counselors Struggle After Buffalo Shooting

Every school, it seems, has a moment that crystallizes the crisis facing youth and the pressure it is putting on educators. For many schools, last weekend’s shooting rampage in Buffalo by an 18-year-old who had been flagged for making a threatening comment at his high school last year, prompted staff discussions on how they might respond differently, the Associated Press reports. After a suicide prevention seminar in one middle 200 students asked a school counselor for help. Many were sixth graders. A surge in student mental health needs, combined with staff shortages and widespread episodes of misbehavior and violence, has put extraordinary strain on school counselors and psychologists. The Buffalo shooting highlights their concerns over their ability to support students and adequately screen those who might show potential for violence. When the accused shooter in Buffalo, Payton Gendron, was asked in spring 2021 by a teacher at his Binghamton, N.Y., high school about his plans after graduation, he responded that he wanted to commit a murder-suicide.

The comment by Gendron resulted in state police being called and a mental health evaluation at a hospital, where he claimed he was joking and was cleared to attend his graduation. Childhood depression and anxiety were on the rise for years before the pandemic, experts say, and the school closures and broader social lockdowns during the pandemic exacerbated the problems. The return to in-person classes has been accompanied by soaring numbers of school shootings, according to experts who say disputes are ending in gunfire as more students bring weapons to school. Teachers say disrespect and defiance have increased. School staff is “100 percent taxed,” said Jennifer Correnti, director of school counseling at Harrison High School in New Jersey, where counselors have been under strain as they help students acclimate after two school years of pandemic learning disruptions. She added, “Everybody. Administrators, staff. Like, there’s no one that’s escaping. There is no one leaving school feeling amazed every day.”


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