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Palm Beach County teacher helps students process violence at U.S. Capitol

'The students just want to see peaceful resolutions,' Dr. Eric Jourgensen says
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Posted at 3:32 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 17:38:33-05

WELLINGTON, Fla. — As we all try to process what we witnessed in our nation's capital on Wednesday, it's bringing up honest discussions with our children at home and in school.

"I already had the plan of working it into an assignment," said Dr. Eric Jourgensen, a teacher at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington.

As Dr. Jourgensen watched protests turn violent in Washington, D.C., he knew it would be a big topic in his introduction to journalism classes on Thursday.

"I said, OK, now pretend you are a reporter this morning putting together a news package based on yesterday’s events. Show me how you would have it go down," Dr. Jourgensen said.

Jourgensen also talked with his American literature students about how they were feeling.

"I was actually surprised by the number of students who were like, well, what happened last night? And once I told them, it was like, oh that. Like it wasn’t a big deal," Dr. Jourgensen said.

Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy of the School District of Palm Beach County put out a recorded message, telling families that additional school psychologists would be available to anyone who needs the support.

"As a parent of young children, I realize your children may be traumatized by the events they are seeing unfold on national television," Fennoy said. "It is important to remind your children that they are safe, and that the images they are see on TV are occurring thousands of miles away."

"I said, I don’t want to belittle if you are having some stress and anxiety from this. Is anyone having that? And most said no. A few said yes because they are hypersensitive to violence overall," Dr. Jourgensen said. "One of them said, yes, they were disturbed by it because of the shooting and they were also in the crowd when there was a shooting at the Palm Beach Central football game. So they’re hypersensitive to that type of situation."

Jourgensen said the class then turned into a support system for that student.

"Adults are supposed to be the example, and the examples that we’ve seen, whether it’s the riots over the summer or the riots yesterday, that’s not the example that these kids want to follow," Jourgensen said.

Jourgensen added that what stuck with him was his students' calls for change.

"The students just want to see peaceful resolutions to things," Jourgensen said. "Many of them said they didn’t understand how people just couldn’t agree to disagree."

And that desire for peace gives him hope for the future.

"I think, in some respects, the adults can learn from the kids," Jourgensen said. "They want the peaceful resolutions. They are tired of seeing the violence on both sides."

In his message, Dr. Fennoy also stressed that the School District of Palm Beach County will not tolerate any behavior that leads to bullying and intimidation.

Fennoy encouraged parents to get in touch with their school's principal if they have any concerns.