I sat at my computer watching the tragic events unfold at Franklin Regional High School on Wednesday and shook my head in absolute consternation. The patterns of school violence are as predictable in their unfolding as they are unpredictable in the time and place of their next occurrence.
Violence on this scale seems like it can happen anywhere, and this tragedy highlights the need for the stakeholders in the communities within our region to come together and have a frank and productive conversation about what we know about violence and trauma and how to best respond to events such as these.
Two months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, concerned faculty and administrators at Indiana University of Pennsylvania began collaborating on a conference for understanding and responding to violence and trauma in our community and region.
We aimed to take a leadership role where we felt one was lacking, which was to be a catalyst in refining community engagement, clinical practice and scholarly enterprise on prevention, response and coping with violence across the lifespan. This includes a focus on violence and trauma in our community schools.
We are called “REACH,” which stands for Research, Education and Advocacy for Community Health. And members of our REACH team feel that there is no better time than now to reflect and engage in a dialogue on how to appropriately prevent violence and cope and respond to its traumatic after-effects.
We will hold our inaugural REACH conference, “Understanding and Responding to Violence and Trauma: A Community Health Initiative,” at IUP on May 20-23. We hope to see all the region’s stakeholders in attendance at this important forum, including schoolteachers, police, social service agencies and hospital personnel, therapists, counselors, parents, students and community members.
Attendees will be introduced to the latest research and clinical intervention techniques in violence prevention from multiple fields and have many formal and informal opportunities for personal interactions with national experts in the field of violence education.
The conference will host world-class speakers in the area of violence and trauma research and advocacy, including David Finkelhor, Nan Stein, Victor Vieth, Anthony D’Augelli, Ed Gondolf and Coreen Farris.
We hope to begin a discussion that will lead to more effective forms of community engagement and behavioral health practices so that this type of violent event will never happen in our region again.
You can find information about our conference at http://www.iup.edu/page. aspx?id165988.
IUP sociology professor