Re­sponse to Conn. shoot­ings

The Covington News - - OPINION -

Dear Par­ents: By now, you are well aware of the tragic school shoot­ing that oc­curred Fri­day morn­ing at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in New­town, Conn. As a par­ent, I am heavy-hearted and know that you, like me, are hurt­ing. There will be ex­ten­sive me­dia cov­er­age of this ter­ri­ble tragedy on the news and much dis­cus­sion about it in our com­mu­ni­ties in the days and weeks ahead.

I want to as­sure that the safety of our stu­dents is our main con­cern and that our schools have a cri­sis plan in place to help avoid tragedies such as th­ese. Each school reg­u­larly prac­tices emer­gency re­sponse drills and we con­tin­u­ally eval­u­ate our safety and se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures. In light of this tragedy, all schools went on a height­ened state of alert on Fri­day and all prin­ci­pals at­tended a manda­tory safety meet­ing on Mon­day to re­view school safety pro­ce­dures.

Un­for­tu­nately, the events in New­town, Conn., serve as a stark re­minder for the im­por­tance of th­ese school safety pro­ce­dures and it is im­per­a­tive that par­ents as­sist us in fol­low­ing our front of­fice pro­ce­dures when ar­riv­ing on cam­pus. Use front en­trances only when vis­it­ing school and check into the of­fice im­me­di­ately upon ar­rival; don’t for­get to let us know when you are leav­ing. We ask that you con­tinue to help us by be­ing our eyes and ears on cam­pus and re­port­ing any safety con­cerns you no­tice.

While no amount of plan­ning can guar­an­tee that a tragedy such as this will not oc­cur, we do ev­ery­thing we know to keep stu­dents and staff safe while at school. In ad­di­tion, it is equally im­por­tant for us to work with our staff and en­sure they are pre­pared to sup­port their stu­dents in dif­fi­cult times. As of Mon­day morn­ing, we had our school coun­selors and ad­min­is­tra­tors ready to re­spond to stu­dents as needed. As we learn more de­tails about this tragic in­ci­dent in the days and weeks ahead, it will be im­por­tant for you to spend time talk­ing with your chil­dren and help­ing them cope with this news. We know that chil­dren may raise ques­tions and con­cerns about this tragedy so I am shar­ing sev­eral tips from the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion for par­ents to con­sider:

Talk with your child. If chil­dren ask ques­tions, talk­ing to them about their wor­ries and con­cerns is the first step to help them feel safe and be­gin to cope with the events oc­cur­ring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does de­pend on their age, but all chil­dren need to be able to know that you are there and lis­ten­ing to them.

Keep home a safe place. Chil­dren, re­gard­less of age, of­ten find home to be a safe haven when the world around them be­comes over­whelm­ing. Dur­ing times of cri­sis, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that your chil­dren may come home seek­ing the safe feel­ing they have be­ing there.

Watch for signs of stress, fear or anx­i­ety. Af­ter a trau­matic event, it is typ­i­cal for chil­dren (and adults) to ex­pe­ri­ence a wide range of emo­tions in­clud­ing fear­ful­ness, shock, anger, grief and anx­i­ety. Your chil­dren’s be­hav­iors may change be­cause of their re­sponse to the event. They may ex­pe­ri­ence trou­ble sleep­ing, dif­fi­culty with con­cen­trat­ing on school­work, or changes in ap­petite. This is nor­mal for ev­ery­one and should be­gin to dis­ap­pear in a few months.

Take ‘news breaks.’ Your chil­dren may want to keep in­formed by gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion about the event from the In­ter­net, TV or news­pa­pers. It is im­por­tant to limit the amount of time spent watch­ing the news be­cause con­stant ex­po­sure may ac­tu­ally heighten their anx­i­ety and fears.

If you have any ques­tions or con­cerns about your school’s safety or your child’s re­ac­tion to this tragic event, please know you are al­ways wel­come to con­tact the school prin­ci­pal, coun­selor or cen­tral of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tors. We have school psy­chol­o­gists and so­cial work­ers on hand who can as­sist par­ents in talk­ing with their chil­dren or an­swer­ing ques­tions.

In clos­ing, I ask that you please keep the fam­i­lies of those in­volved in this ter­ri­ble tragedy in your thoughts and prayers. We will learn more de­tails in the hours and days ahead and we will dis­cuss and de­brief with ad­min­is­tra­tors and staff ac­cord­ingly.

Yours Very Truly,

Gary S. Mathews, Ph.D. New­ton County Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent

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