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NY Educators Urge Open Dialogue In Wake Of VI School Shooting

April 18, 2007

Following the school shooting that killed 33 Virginia Tech students and teachers, New York educators are urging students and teachers to create more open and trusting relationships to help prevent school violence in the state. President of New York's teachers' union, Richard Iannuzzi, said a culture of open dialogue between students and teachers could save lives.

"Students have to understand that when they hear anything, they need to share that with an adult. And adults, frankly, need to understand that when something is shared with them, they have to take it seriously."

New York's last school shooting occurred in 2002 when a Manhattan high school teenager snuck a gun past metal detectors and wounded two students. In 2005, there was an attempted bombing at Sweet Home high school in western New York. The plot was foiled after students alerted teachers. Iannuzzi says Sweet Home created an open environment between students and teachers.

"So often we discover there was a sign -- a note or something someone threw away, or another student comes forward and says 'You know, he told me he was going to do this'".

After Sweet Home school officials went to police, a 15-year-old boy was arrested at his home with several bomb-making materials.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has also spurred teachers to review their school's crisis plan and also think about the physiological effects on their own students. Sharon Mitchell is a psychologist at the University at Buffalo and a member of United University Professions.

"Since we are on a college campus, I think one reaction you have is: 'Could something like this happen here? What is our preparation or response should something like this happen?'"

Charles Lane/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY