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Arming America's Teachers: How to identify "at risk" students

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BOARDMAN, Ohio - The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has prompted several Ohio schools to approve a controversial measure of arming some staff.

In the fifth part of our series Arming Americas Teachers, we are taking a look at ways to identify at risk students and get them help before they become a potential killer.

While the issue of letting staff carry guns in schools is debatable, what's not are the kinds of students who ultimately pulled the trigger in these mass school shootings.

Whether it was Columbine, Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook, the people responsible were all described as socially withdrawn, bullied or disenfranchised.

That's why schools all across America are finding it more important than ever to identify students who begin to show characteristics of active shooters.

A professional counselor says parents and teachers need to look for drastic changes in behavior.

"Are you seeing somebody who is sleeping more, less motivated, not doing things they used to do? They aren't hanging with their friends, they're not going to sporting events. Are you seeing a change in emotions? More anger or more irritability, are they more sad or even a more excess in energy," said Dr. Brandy Kelly-Gilia.

Boardman Schools Superintendent Frank Lazzeri says his district is taking a proactive approach, reaching out to students who exhibit these changes.

In some cases it is the student who is reaching out for help without even realizing it.

"Sometimes a student might express themselves in terms of an assignment that they do. Writing a personal journal or doing a bit of art work and that art, for example, may show violence in it," Lazzeri said.

Dr. Gilia says it's important for teachers and parents to reach out to children and make sure they get the help they need, and in some cases that's counseling.

And it's not something parents should be ashamed to get for their child.

"A professional counselor is going to know how to ask the child the right questions and be able to make the right observations and be able to give the parent more information. Maybe it's nothing. We don't want to think something is wrong, but mental health issues and substance abuse issues are the same as any other disease so if your child had diabetes would you get your child help for diabetes? Probably," Dr. Gilia said.

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