Response to Conn. shootings
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