As my wife and I drove to Vancouver this past Friday evening, we were inundated with radio coverage of the very tragic events at a Connecticut school. Like all of you, I have been emotionally impacted by this event over the weekend. As a district administrator and parent of four children, I have watched and heard much more coverage throughout the weekend, alternating between tears, anger, and a great deal of thought about school and district reactions to these types of events.
We know that there may understandably be some anxiety around this incident, and staff, students and their families may have some level of emotional impact from the news. As educators, we want to listen and create a school environment that acknowledges all feelings. When children have questions or raise relevant issues, it is important for parents and educators to choose what information is to be shared based on the child’s age and an assessment of the child’s need to know.
If discussions do take place within our classrooms, we have recommended they be limited to a brief sharing of facts. For parents, we also advise that you limit media exposure for younger children, and for older children, let them know that the media may be too upsetting for them to watch.
For many of our schools, there may be very little emotional impact from the events in Connecticut. It is indeed the Christmas season, and there are many positive distractions going on in our schools. Still, we want to be cognizant of those in our communities who may be more emotionally susceptible when it comes to events such as these based on their own personal circumstances.
At all of our schools and other district worksites, we have excellent emergency response plans in place. These plans are reviewed annually, and drills are practiced on a regular basis to be prepared in the extremely small chance that we may someday need to put these plans into action. District policies also set guidelines in place which district personnel follow when creating these school plans.
Three short weeks ago, our district hosted Ministry of Education ERASE (Expect Respect and A Safe Education) sessions related to school safety. Elementary staff teams participated in workshops related to preventing bullying and creating safe school cultures. Secondary staff teams participated in workshops related to school-based violence prevention and threat/risk assessment. Both of these workshops were extremely informative and thought-provoking, and we are continuing to look at ways as to how we can continue to improve in these areas in School District No. 27.
In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye on those around you. Open up your ears and hearts when someone does want to talk or ask some pertinent questions.
Most importantly, hug your children a few more times today.