Psychologist offers advice as students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas

School year begins six month after shooting that left 17 dead

PARKLAND, Fla. – Classes at Broward County Public Schools begin Wednesday, a day after the six-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. For some students, coming back to class could open up old wounds; for others, it could be the beginning of a healing process, experts said.

On the district's website, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie welcomed everyone back for what he said will be a productive and successful school year.

He also highlighted some school security improvements the district has made, but Dr. Dara Bushman, a psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder, said those reassurances may not be enough for some Stoneman Douglas families, especially for the parents.

"As a parent, you do everything and anything to protect your children. I don't think there's ever enough safety precautions you can take to ensure your children being safe physically and emotionally," Bushman said.

Bushman said those fears aren't just focused on Parkland families.

What happened at Stoneman Douglas reverberated through the district and affected all students so she said extra nerves this year are completely normal, even for parents.

And the best way to deal with those feelings is to talk about them even if it seems like a difficult topic to discuss.

"How one person processes through it is completely different than another," Bushman said. "It's our job as parents and adults and teachers to notice what's going on for all children and each child individually. That way we know exactly where they're at with what's going on, and what their needs are."

Bushman said communication is incredibly important, not just about the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas, but about all nervousness that comes with starting a new school year.

And she said even if your children don't respond at first to the talking, keep trying, because them shutting you off could be a non-verbal cue that something else is going on.

The Broward County Public Schools is also offering a back-to-school toolkit on its website.

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