U-M experts available to discuss prevention, aftermath of school shooting in Texas

May 25, 2022


University of Michigan experts can discuss school shootings and the community aftermath in the wake of the shootings at Robb Elementary School in Texas.

William Lopez is a clinical assistant professor of health behavior and health education. He can discuss issues of race as it relates to mass shootings. 

“We know from extensive research that the sight of border patrol agents has visceral, psychological, emotional and behavior change reactions for folks who are or who could be deported by the border patrol. The fear of border patrol doesn’t change because border patrol may be pausing their deportation machine to stop a mass shooter on a particular day.

It should be very clear, from President Biden and (Texas) Governor Abbott, that those collaborating with law enforcement, those speaking with first responders, should not be the targets of immigration enforcement. This should be very clearly stated. There is no healing to be had during this tragedy if folks are fearing for their own deportations, this is just trauma upon trauma.”

Contact: wdlopez@umich.edu

Joanna Quigley is a child psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, and an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry. She offers advice for parents and educators in understanding how children and teens might react to and process the news from Texas, and how they can support young people in their lives this week and beyond. It’s the same advice she offered in the aftermath of the Oxford, Mich.school shooting in late November. 

Quigley can also comment on the shortage of specialized mental health care providers for young people, and efforts to support primary care providers such as pediatricians in providing mental health care to children, teens, young adults and pregnant women.. She helps lead the MC3 program run by the Department of Psychiatry that connects primary care providers with specialists to advise on the care of specific patients. 

Her advice to parents and teachers right now: “Even if young people say they don’t have questions or don’t want to talk right now, let them know you have an open door policy if they do want to talk, which could be a week or two from now, or may be prompted by more information coming out about the incident. It’s important for them to know that the adults in their lives are available to them on an ongoing basis.”

To reach Quigley, contact Kara Gavin: kegavin@umich.edu

Justin Heinze is an assistant professor of health behavior and health education. He is currently the lead evaluator for two National Institute of Justice-funded interventions focused on school safety and violence prevention and the lead investigator of an NIJ-funded study of an anonymous reporting system designed for the early identification of threats in a school community. Heinze also serves as the faculty lead for the U-M School of Public Health’s IDEAS initiative for preventing firearm injuries, which focuses on research, engagement and action on public health issues. He is also part of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention.

“In the wake of yet another school tragedy and before we turn our attention back to prevention, we need to think about the recovery process. Especially with a high profile shooting, school communities across the country will be grieving and trying to understand what happened. Parents, mentors and other adults in the community need to understand that their students may be scared, confused or sad and that students will react in different ways and on different timelines. We don’t want to rely on schools alone to have those conversations. There are good tools available to help adults have these difficult conversations with their students, acknowledge and validate their feelings, keep communication open, and help students cope.”

To reach Heinze, contact Nardy Baeza Bickel: nbbickel@umich.edu

Marc Zimmerman is co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, co-principal investigator of the National Center for School Safety, the Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the School of Public Health, and a professor of psychology at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Research led by Zimmerman shows that engaging local residents in community greening efforts can lead to a substantial reduction in firearm violence, and that empowering adolescents to become change agents for community improvement projects improves their positive behaviors and reduces aggression and violence.

“Unfortunately, the underlying causes and antecedents of mass shootings are not all the same so the solutions are complex and prevention extends from family life to schools and our communities, and includes social and public policies. We can find these solutions by building a base of information that can help change the narrative and make firearm safety a top priority. To do this, we must work together to ensure individuals and communities have access to evidence-based prevention strategies that do not infringe upon any one person’s rights, but instead protect them while also making the necessary changes our society needs to end this epidemic. Ultimately, we need to find common ground and work together to solve this critical public health crisis.”

Contact: marcz@umich.edu

Patrick Carter is co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical School, and an associate professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health. Carter’s research focuses on firearm injury prevention across the spectrum of research, from understanding the epidemiology of the problem to prevention-focused solutions for at-risk individuals and communities. 

“Over the past decade, we have witnessed an increase in the number and severity of these types of tragic school shooting incidents, with each incident having devastating impacts on families and the communities that surround them. School shootings are a critical aspect of a larger complex public health problem responsible for more than 45,000 U.S. deaths every year. They are also a reminder of the urgent need to address the problem of firearm injury using comprehensive data-driven solutions, especially those that focus on ways we can prevent these devastating incidents from occurring in the first place. We have applied the science of injury prevention to other serious societal problems – most notably motor vehicle crash prevention – reducing death and injury substantially over the past half \ century. We need to continue to increase the focus on firearm injury prevention by identifying key aspects underlying this public health problem and developing and implementing evidence-based solutions that focus on achieving our common goals of decreasing firearm death and injury.”

Contact: cartpatr@umich.edu

Jason Goldstick is a member of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, a research associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical School, and the director of the statistics and methods section of the Injury Prevention Center. Goldstick specializes in spatial and longitudinal data analysis and predictive analytics. 

“It’s no coincidence that firearm mortality rates are orders of magnitude higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations. In fact, firearm injuries are the leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S. as of 2020. Work is needed at every level — determining why this problem is specific to the U.S. and how to address it —to change that.”

Contact: jasoneg@umich.edu

Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, is a former senior U.S. government counterterrorism official.

“Mass shooters,whether ideologically-motivated or otherwise,  tend to pick targets that allow them the best chance of success,” Ali said. “The combination of target vulnerability plus attack capability plus perceived impact usually then drives how these events unfold, although there is no clean scientific or mathematical algorithm that can precisely determine when and how attacks happen. 

“As a result, an equally diverse set of policy tools are needed to combat this threat domestically, from gun control and reform, mental health screening and services, increased physical security at potentially vulnerable sites, and heightened monitoring of violence-related content on social media platforms and sites.”

Contact: alimust@umich.edu

Jonathan Hanson is a political scientist and lecturer in statistics at the Ford School of Public Policy. Before entering academia, he served as a legislative assistant in Congress for several years and worked on political campaigns.

“With another senseless mass shooting in America, we are reminded starkly that our political system is paralyzed and broken,” he said. “Overwhelming majorities of Americans, including gun owners, support basic measures like background checks for gun purchases. Yet, our system empowers minority rule on this issue, and we are unable to have a real debate about sensible policies that would help prevent these distinctively American tragedies.”

Contact: jkhanson@umich.edu


Sandra Graham-Bermann is a psychology professor who specializes in traumatic stress reactions to children exposed to violence.   

“Most children will react to a traumatic event with some trauma symptoms, such as avoidance, being emotionally dysregulated, and having disturbed sleep or nightmares. But few will have long lasting effects or develop PTSD,” she said. “People have a normal grief and trauma reaction that you can’t just put into perspective. Parents do need to help their child to feel safe again but that takes time.”
Contact: sandragb@umich.edu