Throughout the second week after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead, experts sent by the Israeli government hosted a series of trauma training sessions in Broward County for teachers, counselors and other members of the community who were coping with the violence.
Yotam Dagan, from the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), was brought in by the Jewish Federation of Broward County, the Consulate General of Israel in Miami and Goodman Jewish Family Services to run these sessions. The ITC has conducted training all over the world, recently traveling to Las Vegas after the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival last year that killed 59 and to Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
Dagan said most knowledge about treating trauma comes out of the United States, but Israel’s history of dealing with frequent violence has given its responders a unique perspective on trauma.
“Israel is a very small country and we have been facing adversities for decades. Every few years there is a war and terrorist attacks,” he said. “We have learned very fast how to take the American knowledge and kind of take it forward to help us be more resilient and to be able to help those in need who are affected by the invisible bullet of trauma.”
A psychologist by training, Dagan ran a session Thursday night at Coral Springs Middle School with his partner Alan Cohen. It focused on how to better prepare educators to spot and manage trauma after a tragedy like the shooting in Parkland.
No one from Marjory Stoneman Douglas went to that session, but many in attendance had connections to the school. A couple of people choked up in tears as they introduced themselves and mentioned the victims they knew.
Dagan says after a tragedy like this it’s critical that teachers take care of themselves so they can properly care for their students.
“The teachers are in a very vulnerable position,” he said. “They are under immense pressure and they have been traumatized themselves...and I know for some of them, there’s this whole question of ‘How do you go back from this horrific situation into this amazing school that we have and get it back to where it was?’ And that is an enormous task, an enormous challenge.”
Dagan and Cohen occasionally had to steer the audience away from politics, as some attendees brought up proposals to arm teachers and to tear down the freshman building where the Douglas High School shooting took place.
One thing the specialists focused on during the training was how to help teachers get students to move forward with their lives.
“To regain a sense of safety and to be back on track in terms of what we call functional continuity, to make sure everything continues to work,” Dagan said.
Note: This story was updated to reflect that the Consulate General of Israel in Miami was one of the sponsors of the visit from the trauma experts.