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Fake Threats to Maine Schools Cause Real Trauma for Students, Staff

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Friday, November 18, 2022   

Experts say the presence of police in full tactical gear and spending hours in school lockdown mode will leave a lasting impression on Maine teens and staff.

Phone calls claiming an active shooter was on school grounds were reported at 10 high schools across the state. Many students hid for hours while staff members prepared for the worst. Others sent text messages to family members, fearing their lives were in danger.

Licensed clinical social worker Greg Marley, senior director of suicide prevention at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Maine, said the threat was real until it was proved otherwise, and each person affected will have a different reaction.

"And based on their previous trauma, their personality, their mental health condition, it could be incredibly traumatic," he said, "or it could be just really upsetting."

Marley said it's important to not minimize anyone's experience, even if it was based on a hoax. He said maintaining a healthy diet and exercise along with proper sleep are not to be underrated in preventing students from falling into despair.

Teens also can text NAMI-Maine's crisis hotline at 207-515-8398.

While some schools have experienced threats before, this was their experience with "swatting" - the act of calling 911 to report that a shooting already is taking place when it isn't. Experts say swatting is meant to cause chaos and erode students' trust in schools as a safe haven.

Marley said there will be some signs to look for over the coming weeks.

"But if they're showing that they're struggling sleeping, that they're reactive - they're emotionally upset, they're not eating, they don't want to go back to school - those are the signs you need to really respond to," he said.

Marley said parents should reach out to school officials should their students remain fearful, and recommended that parents and students tour the school together to better understand the safety mechanisms in place. Patience and time, Marley said, are key.


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