The news today of the deaths of a number of children is heartbreaking.
Several people have asked about how we are handling the news. At a time like this, the unfathomable pain of the parents, surviving children, the classmates, relatives and neighbors causes us to feel great sadness. We look at each other in disbelief that our children might hear of such a tragedy in a community much like Summit.
Although some parents may have the urge to protect children from such news, please understand your children could hear of this incident through media or discussions with their peers.
At school, we have alerted our teachers to listen carefully to the children's casual conversations and have asked them to intervene gently to reassure and to correct misinformation. They will redirect the conversation back to school-related topics after acknowledging the sadness of those deaths.
We recommend that you be careful about your children's exposure to news, network TV with newsbreaks, and newspapers. We suggest you use the following criteria to engage your children in a discussion at home:
- Listen carefully to what they have heard or seen.
- Acknowledge the enormous sadness of it.
- Allow them to talk about their feelings and fears.
- Answer their questions with brief information.
- Focus on the issue of death, not murder.
- If you don't know the information, then tell them that. Don't offer hypotheses.
- Assure them of their safety and your ongoing presence in their lives.
- Point out to them how extraordinary this event is and caring adults in millions of homes keep children safe.
This may be a time your child needs reassurance, verbally, emotionally or physically. They may express their feelings through play or drawing thus showing you how they are processing it.
Let us know what you are hearing from your children and we will work together to support them and reassure them.
Health and safety of our students is our number one priority. All of our schools have security procedures in place. Some of which include:
- Locked doors, security cameras and buzzers
- Emergency drills on a regular basis
- Staff training including participation in State and National safety programs
- Ongoing partnership with police for security and emergency response
- Protocols for communication within the district and the school
- Procedures to respond to a variety emergencies
Please note the following link with additional suggestions for talking to children about violence: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf
My hope is that you will find this information helpful as we come to terms with this terrible tragedy.
Editor's note: Superintendent Parker's letter was originally published on the Summit School District's web site.