The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 7, 2013

School crisis seminar aim: Bring help to kids

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — A real-life call of duty is presenting itself in today’s culture, Dr. Tina S. Brookes said Monday.

That “call” is helping children respond in positive ways in a world that’s growing ever-more violent and depraved.

“We’re beyond writing and complaining to Congress about it,” Brookes said. “We should do what we need to do.”

Brookes was speaking to 57 people from seven states who attended a school crisis management seminar that continues today at Hermitage Volunteer Fire Station Three on Maple Drive.

She spent about an hour detailing the harmful effects of exposure to violent multi-media content most notably present in video games but that’s also pervasive on television and the Internet.

Prolonged exposure to “violent visual imagery” changes the brain, studies suggest, she said.

Brookes’ lamentation is one of a litany of indictments against things like the video game “Call of Duty” that recreates the horrors of war.

But she went beyond decrying or trying to blame playing video games for bad behavior. Instead she posed a possible solution.

“Why don’t we make a difference?” she asked. “Make an impact on your little corner of the world. Increase your awareness of this stuff.”

The segment about encouraging families to “unplug” from the world of screen time to interact in better ways was one of several topics covered in the seminar, which was called “Managing School Crises: From Theory to Application.”

Brookes specializes in critical incident crisis response and has offered her expertise after events like last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The idea of Brookes’ presentation in Hermitage was to bring “top-notch” training to the Shenango Valley, said the Rev. David Williamson.

Williamson is pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Hermitage. He also serves as chaplain for the city’s police and fire departments.

“When something terrible happens at a school, police and fire have procedures for keeping people safe,” Williamson said. “But now what? What do we do with kids who’ve seen something terrible?”

Answering that question and those like it was the ultimate aim of the seminar, he said.

South Pymatuning Community Church Pastor David Searle said he attended to make sure he’s prepared to respond to a crisis in the community.

“Something could happen in our area,” he said, adding that if and when it does, he wants to be able to lend a helping hand.

“This is excellent,” said Bill Rudge of the Hermitage-based Bill Rudge Ministries. “You’ve got key people from police, fire, schools. This is very well put-together.”