LSU psychologist offers advice to students, parents anxious over school threats

HAHNVILLE, LA (WVUE) - At Hahnville High School on Friday, there were lines of parents trying to get inside the school to get their children out. It followed rumors that a threat against the school had been posted online.

"So like we're just in all of the classrooms just scared and whatever, and so then we get notified that they sent extra security, extra officers and all that," said student Khylen Sorapuru as he was about to leave school with his mother.

Some parents said they received text messages from their children and raced to the school. Others learned about the rumors another way.

"With the way things are going today you never know. You have to take precautions. It could be nonsense, but it could not," said parent Ken Gair.

The school sent out an email blast stating:

"Out of an abundance of caution, there is additional police presence on the campus of Hahnville High School today, Friday, February 23, 2018.  The school has been made aware of a social media post, that has not been substantiated, regarding a potential threat to the school."

"Remember that teenagers, when events happen, there is a lot of drama in the moment and people get elevated emotionally, they may have reason to be elevated emotionally," said Amy Dickson, a clinical psychologist at LSU Health New Orleans in the School of Medicine.

This week, several schools in the New Orleans area have dealt with threats in the wake of the Florida school massacre, and some students have been arrested.

Dickson said for other students it could be a stressful time, and parents must observe them closely.

"Watch your teenagers. Is their personality changing, are they becoming more isolated and not hanging out with their friends, are they switching friends all the time, do they seem to be worried, are they having trouble sleeping or they're eating excessively?" she said.

But some parents said the current environment has them anxious, as well.

"Well, yeah because you can't take situations like this lightly and try to think the best in every situation, because with everything that's going on now, anything is possible. So yes, it makes she feel anxious, nervous, scared," said Rachell Gales as she picked up her son from Hahnville High.

Dickson offered advice to worried parents.

"Talk to each other, share their thoughts and feelings, discuss with other parents what they can do to keep their children safe," she said.

She said parents should also reach out to schools to learn more about security protocols. And students and parents having a hard time coping with the anxiety from such threats may want to see a healthcare professional.

"And if they find that these incidents are very triggering for them and they're having a lot of trouble concentrating or sleeping or eating or being able to do their job, or they're just very emotional all they time, they should absolutely reach out," said Dickson.

Sheriff Greg Champagne put a message on his Facebook page stating the rumors concerning Hahnville High were unfounded after his deputies investigated.

Still, with a growing number of local school threats or rumors of them, many wonder why some teenagers may be apt to make posts that cause concern about safety.

"Teenagers are impulsive. A lot of time when teenagers post things on social media they're venting their feelings right them in the moment and they don't filter through, they don't think about the reaction, sometimes they do it for reaction, they want the attention," said Dickson.

She said parents should take care in talking to younger children who have been exposed to media about the Florida shootings. She said little kids should not be exposed to news media or social media about the incident, but if they have, their parents should ask them if they have any questions.

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