On Your Mind: Anxiety about school shootings

Dear Tom,

Even though it happened a long way from here, I can’t get the Sandy Hook shooting out of my head. I have two kids in elementary school and I’m feeling very nervous when I drop them off at school. It’s getting so intense that I’m considering pulling them out to homeschool them so I can avoid this panicky feeling that someone might attack them at school. My husband says that I’m overreacting. But this feels very real to me. What should I do next?

Dear Mom:

Your concern for your children’s safety is a very normal thing. In light of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, all parents are feeling more vulnerable and concerned about keeping their kids safe.

The question is the degree of that concern and whether that concern is getting to be so high or so intense that it impairs a mom or dad’s functioning in the common areas of their life.

You mention wanting to pull them out of school “to avoid this panicky feeling that someone might attack them at school.” What you’re experiencing is most likely an anxiety reaction to the fear that they might get hurt.

Please note that moving them to home schooling may reduce your concern, but it also might be very disruptive for them. Before you take the more drastic step of moving them to homeschooling, consider taking these steps first:

Check with your children’s elementary school on the following items:

  • What is the school safety plan and how trained are school staff on executing those plans?
  • How many school counselors or social workers are available?
  • How often and what is the content of school training on safety and mental health awareness?
  • How secure is the school building and grounds?
  • Talk to your child’s teachers about your concerns and get a sense of the teacher’s level of awareness and readiness to ensure safety.

Consider the relative risk of children being hurt at school versus other public places – parks, pools, malls, etc.  No place is 100% safe.

Educate yourself on risk factors for each place and consider steps you can take to reduce that risk. Being thoughtful and pro-active will go a long way toward reducing your concern and anxiety.

Best wishes to you.


Tom Petrizzo serves as CEO of Ozark Guidance and has degrees in social work and law. You can reach Ozark Guidance at 479-750-2020.  Tom has spent the last 20 years managing non-profit centers in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas. He has also served as adjunct faculty at the social work graduate program at three large universities. He’s married to Teri Classick, a licensed clinical social worker, and they have two daughters. When he’s not at work, Tom likes to jog, bike ride, read and he even belted out the National Anthem lately at a Northwest Arkansas Naturals Game!

Tom would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback. Tom will be back each month to answer another woman’s question.

Disclaimer:  This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.