Following Friday's shooting in Newtown, CT. Superintendent Enid Golden and Board President Tim O'Brien issued a joint statement in response to the tragic event.
"We are all so deeply saddened by the shootings that have taken place in Newtown, Connecticut," the statement said. They added, "The safety and security of your children while at school is always our top priority, and we have a plan in place at each of our schools to prevent crisis situations."
That plan includes working with the Howell Police Department and the local fire departments discussing safety procedures with students and staff and holding emergency preparation drills. "We will continue to do everything we know to keep students and staff safe while at school," the statement continued.
A meeting will be held on Monday with the district's leadership team to talk about the situation in Newton and "plan for any additional measures that may need to be taken in the wake of this tragedy."
When school resumes on Monday Golden and O'Brien said the district's staff, including guidance counselors and members of the child study team will be available to talk to students about what happened in Connecticut. "Although we would like for our classroom routines to remain as consistent as possible, our teachers will respond to students' concerns as appropriate and seek additional assistance from other building professionals when needed."
The district administration also shared some tips from the National Association of School Psychologists about what parents can do to help their children understand situations like this:
- Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
- Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily.
- Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
- Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them.
- Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
- Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines, communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
- Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
- Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
- Limit television viewing of these events, and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
- Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.
Over time they said more details will be known about how Friday's events unfolded, but the two members of the administration said, "For now all we can do is pray for the victims, their families, and the parents who are grieving this evening over the loss of a precious child." They added, "Tonight let's also make sure we hug and kiss our children and reassure them they are safe and we love them."