Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook Tragedy

Image by Joe Mazza
Friday we learned of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Conn. Over the weekend details of heroic actions by many teachers and staff members were shared by the media. I still do not understand why something this horrible can happen. We may never know why but I'm sure over the next few weeks the world will learn in detail how these senseless acts of murder occurred. Details of the Sandy Hook safety plans, lock down procedures and how each adult responded will be discussed, reviewed and evaluated.

From the information I have read it appears that Sandy Hook Elementary was well prepared and staff members knew exactly what to do in an emergency situation. They implemented a new safety plan this fall including procedures for visitors to enter the building safely.  Every school in the country will review their own safety plans and make every effort to prevent the unthinkable yet at Sandy Hook the unthinkable happened.

At Centerburg we have prepared and practiced our own safety plans in collaboration with the Knox County Sheriff's Department. We have procedures in place for a number of situations and I am confident that our staff will respond swiftly to protect the safety and welfare of our kids. In light of the recent events we will continually review our plans and procedures to be sure our buildings are safe. The physical construction and layout of the building does create some interesting scenarios for building security but I can assure you that we diligently monitor the access to the building.

Joe Mazza, principal at Knapp Elementary School provided very sound advice in a recent blog post. Please take a look at the list below. There are a number of resources and talking points to help kids cope with the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Even in the wake of tragedy, schools continue to be one of the safest places for children to be on a daily basis. Below are some conversational tips from Dr. Michele Borba from her Twitterfeed today. I trust Michele with my own child’s well-being, and consider her a personal friend and colleague.
  • Turn off the TV and media on the school shooting when kids are present. Images can negatively impact children regardless of your zip code.
  • Talk to the kids tonight or as soon as you see them. Open with “What have you heard?” Kids need the right facts. YOU not their peers provide the best source.
  • Kids need to know it’s OK to share their feelings. It’s normal to be upset. Be calm and give only age appropriate information.
  • Don’t give more information than the kid is ready to hear. More importantly, let your child know you’re there to listen.
  • Don’t expect to help alleviate your kid’s anxiety unless you keep your own in check. Kids are calmer if we are calmer.
  • Please don’t think because the child isn’t talking about the events that he/she didn’t hear about it.
  • Give the information in small doses. Listen. Watch their response. Kids need processing time. Kids don’t need to know all the details and numbers. End with “I’m here for any questions you may have at anytime.”
  • Here’s a great way to curb anxieties: Find proactive ways to alleviate fears about the tragedy. Tonight, offer condolences, draw, write letters to victims as a family.
  • Stick to family routines. This soothes the stress and helps kids know that despite tragedy, that the world goes on. The sun will come up tomorrow. Hug!
  • Draw kids’ attention to heroism in the tragedy. Use police, teachers, doctors, etc so kids see the goodness in the heartbreak.
  • Kids respond to tragic news differently. Let your child know their feelings are normal. Help he/she express them. Follow his/her lead.
  • Tonight is the first talk. Keep ongoing dialogue. Don’t explain more than they are ready to hear. Kids process and will want more later.
  • Talk to the kid about the tragedy in an age-appropriate way
  • Assess kid coping skills
  • Listen, give some information and listen some more
  • Kindle hope that the world goes on
  • Ask your teen: “What are your pals saying?” Don’t assume they are NOT affected. Ignite their social justice. “What could we do?”
  • Plan what you’ll say to your kid about the tragedy to boost their confidence and calmness. It’s OK to say “I don’t know” or “Good question. Let me find out.”
For more information visit or follow Michele at @micheleborba

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