OSPA Crisis Guidance for Akron regarding Jayland Walker
A special grand jury will be seated the week of April 10, 2023 to consider the case against 8 Akron police officers involved in the shooting death of Jayland Walker last June. The grand jury will decide if any of the officers will face charges in Jayland’s death last June. The death of Jayland Walker has captured the attention across Ohio and the nation. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost will release to the Attorney General’s website information that has been gathered since June 27, the day that Jayland died following an attempted traffic stop for equipment violations.
Starting on Monday with the seating of the special grand jury, some businesses in Akron are boarding up windows and preparing to close in the case of possible protests. Staff, students and families of the Akron Public School Community have been affected by Jayland’s death and the aftermath. As the Ohio Attorney General moves forward with the special grand jury to examine the facts of the case, the Ohio Association of School Psychologists would like to offer support and resources to the community.
While the special grand jury proceedings in Akron are focused on the death of Jayland Walker, our state and nation is reminded of other instances of lethal police force against BIPOC individuals, as well as other recent local and national instances of widespread epidemic racism and White supremacy.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists statement released in 2021, “these issues affect our children and youth in many forms and can have disproportionate and long-lasting impact on students of minoritized and marginalized backgrounds. As parents, caregivers, and educators, we have a critical responsibility to ensure they feel safe and secure and to help them learn how to process events like this, express their feelings and concerns in a respectful manner, and identify positive coping strategies. Schools play a critical role in this process by creating a positive learning environment for all students, even in a virtual context. It is imperative that educators facilitate respectful discussions among students and safeguard the well-being of those who may feel vulnerable. NASP has a number of resources to help educators and other adults support children and youth in the days ahead, key points of which are summarized below. School psychologists and other school-employed mental health professionals should be involved in the planning and implementation of this work.”
School staff, School Psychologists, Families, and Community Members can assist students and youth by doing the following:
NASP Guidance for Ensuring Student Well-Being April 20, 2021
Reassure students of their safety and security.
- Remind that school is a safe place, reinforce through strategies and practices that ensure both physical and psychological safety.
- Establish positive relationships between adults and students to create safe, successful learning environments.
- Maintain culturally and linguistically responsive practices
- Ensure that students and their families feel connected and engaged
- Model and teach desired behaviors. If students feel physically or psychologically unsafe, they need to know how to report incidents and trust that adults will be there to validate and respond effectively to their concerns.
Help children engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue.
- Allow opportunities for students to discuss current events with trusted adults in the school.
- Have structured community circles during designated times of the school day allows students to share how they are feeling and if/how they want to take action to address something that they feel is unjust.
- Establish ways for students to participate in discussions and speak with a trusted adult remotely if necessary.
- This student lesson plan is an example of how to have conversations with students using a social justice lens.
Reinforce staff well-being.
- Critical to ensuring a safe, supportive school environment is supporting staff well-being and sense of confidence in responding to unfolding events and reactions.
- School staff are already under tremendous pressure and some may feel overwhelmed, whereas others may experience strong reactions to current events that make such classroom discussions particularly painful and challenging.
- Encourage and help staff to engage in their own self-reflection on how they feel about the trial and issues involved, be prepared to guide students through the coming days, and establish a mechanism for staff to request help if needed.
Help children manage strong emotions.
- Help children understand and identify the range of emotions that they are feeling and learn to express them in appropriate and respectful ways.
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings, maintaining a sense of normalcy in their schedules and activities, and providing coping strategies.
Stop any type of verbal or physical harassment or bullying immediately.
- Make clear that hateful or intolerant comments—or any comments that are meant to hurt or make others feel threatened, unsafe, or unwelcome—will not be tolerated.
- Staff and students should also be mindful of the impact of microaggressions, which may seem less obvious to some yet can be equally hurtful and damaging.
- Talk to the children involved about the reasons for their behavior.
- Offer alternative methods of expressing their anger, confusion, or insecurity, and provide supports for those who are subject to the bullying.
- Reiterate that violence is never a solution to fear or anger and will only cause more harm.
Discuss responsible civic engagement in person and online.
- Have conversations discussing how easy it is to share misinformation when emotions are running high.
- Review how to fact check information in order to understand what is accurate before sharing or reposting memes, pictures, articles, posts, and tweets.
- Remind students to share their thoughts in a respectful manner and to avoid engaging in online arguments with others.
- Be prepared to manage or respond to civil protests.
- School leaders should review crisis response protocols and plans for the possibility of community protests that result in violence.
Akron Area Resources
NASP School Safety and Crisis Resource https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/school-climate-safety-and-crisis (See: Responding to Civil Unrest in Schools: Prevention to Response)
NASP Social Justice Resources https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/diversity-and-social-justice/social-justice (Understanding Race and Privilege: Suggestions for Facilitating Challenging Conversations)
Considerations for Principals When Students Are Planning an Organized Protest or Walkout https://www.nassp.org/2018/02/23/considerations-for-principals-when-students-are-planning-an-organized-protest-or-walkout/