School Shootings Are Causing Heightened Anxiety Among Working Parents: How EAPs Can Help

Since Education Week began maintaining a School Shooting Tracker in 2018, this has been the most violent year on record, with 46 school shootings resulting in injuries or deaths. It’s a shocking number, but even more shocking when it sinks in that there’s a need for such a tracker in the first place.


The regularity of these horrific incidents should not numb us into making them seem routine. They shock the conscience every time another happens, particularly as pictures of the victims start appearing, adding to the heartache we all feel. However, what is routine is the response, where (mostly) well-meaning people on both sides of the political divide revert to their default positions: advocating for arming teachers on the one hand and calling for stricter gun regulation on the other.


Clearly, measures need to be taken to curb this national epidemic, from addressing root causes (mental health) to gun access. While we remain mired in these debates, many school districts have taken proactive steps in developing and coordinating programs in concert with local parents, psychologists, and EAPs (employee assistance programs) for dealing with the immediate impact of a school shooting – indeed for any “critical incident” that potentially visits psychological trauma on students and staff alike (note: critical incidents are traumatic events that occur in the workplace).


As the CEO of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, I come at this topic from the perspective of an EAP, which focuses on addressing and alleviating the behaviors and mental health issues that impede employees from doing their best work. I’ve mentioned above the primary and secondary impacts of a school shooting and the role EAPs have in working with school districts in managing psychological trauma. Another less reported and understood aspect is the anxiety that working parents of school-age children bring to the workplace that these shootings cause.


A majority of U.S. teens fear a shooting could happen at their school, and most parents share their concerns. According to Pew Research, 57% of teens say they are worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school, with one-in-four saying they are very worried. Parents of teenagers express similar levels of concern, with 63% saying they are at least somewhat worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their child’s school.


It may be expected if you’re struggling with anxiety about sending your child to school after a mass shooting or another traumatic event – but these are anything but normal times. Indeed, the 2022 Stress in America Survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that “the number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007. Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”


In a recent article in, several “new” mothers expressed the extreme anxiety these shootings have caused: “She’s only 1, but I’ve been having panic attacks today thinking of sending her to elementary school (in 5 years).” Another mom commented, “I don’t even know what to do anymore. I don’t know if I can send my children to school.”


Many working parents bring this anxiety into work, making it hard to focus and giving rise to a general increase in presenteeism – when you’re in body but absent in mind and spirit. EAPs – employee assistant programs – help working people manage the stressors of everyday life (domestic turmoil, financial concerns, etc.), change negative behaviors that exacerbate these stressors into positive ones, and remove the mental/emotional impediments that compromise their work. They are also expert at providing immediate support for “critical incidents,” an event that has the power to overwhelm usually effective coping mechanisms. When a critical incident occurs, an EAP provides a coordinated, sophisticated response to guide employees and the organization through the initial trauma, supporting their resilience and facilitating their return to work.


According to Jeff Gorter, Vice President, Clinical Crisis Response at R3 Continuum, “statistically, these events (school shootings) are extremely rare, but they can be a source of anxiety for parents of school-age children, even if their school district is far from where a recent shooting happened. Apart from security measures, school districts can work with an EAP to take proactive steps to allay the persistent anxiety that parents may feel, from providing counseling to raising awareness of the resources available to address these and other anxieties that make it hard for them to focus at work.”


The Stress in America Survey that I alluded to underscores the levels of anxiety prevalent at all levels of our society. This is unsurprising given how disruptive and unsettling the pandemic has been and the uncertainties it has left in its wake, particularly in workforces across the nation – evident in the abundance of stories about “quiet quitting” and the “Great Resignation.” Change and the anxieties it brings are very much in the air. While the odds that any of our children will experience these horrific events are low, many parents struggle with lingering anxiety that it could happen. A parent of school-age children who brings to work these anxieties along with the everyday stressors of “post-pandemic” life will not only have problems being productive at work, but they can also be more susceptible to unhealthy behaviors that make matters worse at home (potentially even worse if you work from home).


Addressing gun violence, particularly in schools, is obviously a pressing national priority, as we’ve lost too many children and seen too many grieving parents. Until we achieve consensus on implementing solutions that work, we will continue to live through these incidents of unspeakable horror, and both school-age children and their parents will continue to experience the psychological after-effects. EAPs have the training, resources, and expertise to help parents of school-age children manage the anxieties I’ve described; organizations that engage EAPs should make their employees aware that such an “asset” exists. I wish we could do more to eliminate these events, but at the very least, EAPs can assist in relieving one challenge in today’s culture.


Julie Fabsik-Swarts, MS, CFRE, CAP

Julie Fabsik-Swarts, MS, CFRE, CAP is the CEO of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA). EAPA supports thousands of professionals in Employee Assistance throughout the United States and in over 40 countries. She is a skilled and dynamic nonprofit, association, and sports leader with over 40 years of experience. Raised in New York City, Julie has led such prestigious organizations as The National Postdoctoral Association, the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association, and the national governing body of an Olympic sport. Additionally, she has worked for organizations such as The Pennsylvania State University, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, The Seattle Organizing Committee of the Goodwill Games, the Purple Heart Foundation, University of California at Berkeley, Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania, and the American College.

We welcome for consideration all submissions that adhere to three rules: nothing defamatory, no snark, and no talking points. It’s perfectly acceptable if your view leans Left or Right, just not predictably so. Come write for us.

Share With Your Connections
Share With Your Connections
More Exclusive Content
The Latest News from in Your Inbox
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We will NEVER SELL YOUR DATA. By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Aweber

Write for

Thank you for your interest in contributing to Please note that we are currently not accepting submissions for Exclusive Content; we appreciate your understanding.