LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – It’s been two days since 19 students and two teachers were killed in a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The alleged shooter, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, has sparked national conversations about mental health in schools.

FOX 56 News spoke with a Lexington-native Brian Johnson who unpacked questions many have, to better understand Tuesday’s tragedy.

Johnson is the assistant director of learning for a nonprofit organization, The Danielson Group, which works with superintendents, principals, and teachers on strengthening best practices in schools.

The Danielson Group works with schools across the globe, including in Kentucky.

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Johnson said he’s consistently seen how the pandemic, racial injustices, and everyday challenges for teenagers impact mental health and cause them to turn to the wrong things.

“We’ve seen the outrageous numbers of students who feel isolated, who are anxious,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen a lot of students who are reaching out, and they’re reaching out to the wrong people; finding the wrong resources on the internet, misinformation that’s often out there.”

Social media is another reaching point for students, and it’s not just influencing them in isolation, but also serving as a soap box.

For instance, Ramos posted on social the violent acts he was about to commit, but why did Ramos do that?

Johnson said, “They may not have a friend they can reach out to, but there’s someone on social media who’s going to see it. So there’s this new trend we’re going to continue to see and we need to take heed to any social media we see that reads cryptic.”

Johnson’s experience in education shows that ‘social-emotional’ curriculum has positive impacts on student’s mental health, starting with something as simple as journalism.

“Our schools should be a microcosm of safety. And when they’re not a microcosm of safety, and where you can learn right and wrong, and then when you’re no longer in that school system, now you’re doing it in an environment that is not safe,” Johnson said.

Johnson also explains how an application called ‘gamification’ can help young males develop maturely.

“What we’ve noticed a lot with our male students is that schools aren’t always created for what we call, ‘Gamification.” So younger students, younger male students, they tend to do better when there’s healthy competition, but now because of hybrid learning and cutbacks, they’re happening a lot less. So, there’s this built-up aggression that they’re taking out in the community.”

Turning attention to teachers, Johnson said educators are tired and need more resources to talk about their mental health as well.

“We need to make sure our teachers are equipped with those strategies, and they’re using those strategies too because it’s disingenuous if they’re trying to teach those to the students and not doing it themselves.”

With school getting out for summer, Johnson recommends districts hire more social workers and for educators to review their classroom approaches.

“For our educators, it’s time for us to take time and really think about on our practices. How are we infusing joy in our classroom? How are we giving our students opportunity to have equity of voice. So what that means is we want students to be able to talk through their emotions, without there being some punitive action. Ultimately, we want our students to be lifelong citizens, and you can’t be a life long citizen if you’re committing violent acts.”

After such a heavy week, many schools are going to be looking for ways to increase mental health services for the next school year. Superintendents, principals, and teachers looking for more resources can reach out to The Danielson Group, by clicking here.

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