A day after nearly two dozen Vermont schools received phony threats, many students, teachers and parents were dealing with emotions stemming from the situation.
“You know, you feel a lump in your throat as a parent,” said Dr. Jeremiah Dickerson, a psychiatrist with the University of Vermont Medical Center and parent of children attending school in Colchester.
Dickerson was one of the hundreds of parents in Vermont who received messages Wednesday morning letting them know of the threats, and he says along with thinking of his children, he quickly thought about the potential long-term effects the threats could have on people in our communities.
“I think we have to acknowledge that the threats can be really psychologically distressing, both for students but also for the faculty and staff in the schools as well,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson says stressful situations like school threats and lockdowns can leave lasting impressions on children and teacher, impacting their emotional, behavioral, and even physical health.
“Folks who experience longitudinal stress … It can affect them physiologically, it can affect their emotional behavioral health, it can affect their physical health in a lot of different ways,” Dickerson said.
People with experience working in schools agree that the threats can have lasting impacts, and some say it’s a growing problem.
“Back when I worked at school, even when we had the practice drills it scared the kids half to death,” said Donna Goodhue, a former paraeducator at St. Johnsbury School. “I can’t imagine these kids thinking it was a real situation.”
Dickerson says with such a widespread threat going out Wednesday, parents should keep an eye on their children’s health, especially if you know your child was bothered by the situation.
“It’s important to take an individualized approach to that and to really pay attention that, if anything happens at school, that parents are mindful of any behavioral changes, any changes in sleep or appetite, if their child is more withdrawn,” Dickerson said.