Oak Park Elementary School Principal Ginny Kruse sent out this message to parents, guardians and caregivers in response to Friday morning's shooting in Newtown, Conn.:
"As you are aware, there was a shooting at a school in Connecticut on Dec. 14. Because the incident happened in an elementary school, this may be of very great concern to all students and their families.
We wanted you to know what we are doing at Oak Park to address this tragedy. Using the advice of experts in the field, we have some suggestion for you as you help your children cope during this stressful time.
Adult’s Role: Try to be calm, reassuring, and focused for the children. Parents and guardians need to get the support they need from other adults so they are able to effectively guide their children. Talk about family and community values, communication, and treating each other in a caring way.
Talk and Listen: Find out what the children’s fears and concerns are and address them as directly and calmly as possible. Reassure them that you, extended family members, and other adults are here to help and protect. Give children time to talk, follow their lead – when they are ready to return to their regular routine, let them. If they have further concerns, they will probably come back to talk. Let them know they can talk at any time.
Create a Safe Home Environment: Turn off the TV. Constant images, strong emotions, and reports of the shooting are not helpful at this time. If you need to watch the news, do so after the children have gone to bed. If teenage children want to watch the news, make sure that you are with them to help process the information and images.
Keep to bedtime routine. A good antidote to stress is sleep. Children need reassurance at bedtime. Read to them, keep family faith traditions, and allow nightlights and hall lights to stay on. Some children may want extra assurance. Lying down with children, especially young ones, or sitting in a youth’s room until they fall asleep may be helpful.
Use Your Resources: Community resources are available to you and your families to help you talk to children: counselors, members of the faith community, public health and other community programs. In addition our school resources include our school psychologist, student advocate, principal, and teachers.
Start the Discussion: Here are some remarks that might help you start a discussion with your children about yesterday’s events. Use whatever is comfortable for you. Be careful to avoid dramatizing – try to calm yourself and others instead of fanning the excitement. Pay attention to the facts. Be careful not to spread rumors, follow your child’s lead.“What has happened yesterday is horrifying, and our hearts and brains are having a hard time taking it all in. What we know at this point is: (give facts, as you know them.)”
“When scary things happen, it is important to take a big breath or whatever it is you do to help calm down. ”
“It is still important for you and me to be able to express our feelings and share our thoughts and concerns. Do you want to talk about what has happened? We can talk whenever you want.”
Possible Discussion Questions:
- What have you heard about the shootings?
- How are you feeling about what happened?
- Is anyone you know worried about this happening at your school?
- How can we help that person?
- How did what you heard or saw affect you?
- Who are your friends, supporters and resources for help?
- How can you be a friend or peacemaker to other students and adults in this family, neighborhood or school?
At our school, we are taking the following steps:
- As is standard, all doors, except the main entrance remain locked during the school day.
- We will have additional staff monitoring car pool and bus drop off at the beginning and end of the day, and have additional supervision on the playground.
- There will be a staff meeting Monday morning where we will review safety protocols, and discuss recommended strategies from the Minnesota Department of Education in how to address such tragic events with students.
- I will do the morning announcements reassuring students and focusing on our commitment to their safety. I will visit all classrooms to address any specific questions or concerns students have.
- We will do all we can to retain normalcy in our schedule and classroom routines throughout the day and the upcoming week.
We understand that there is a fine balance between acknowledging children’s concerns and fears and dwelling on the tragedy to the extent that we create more fear.
Oak Park has an experienced and caring staff who know your children well. Although nothing truly prepares us for the tragic event of Sandy Hook Elementary School, the strength of our own community and our commitment to our children will guide us through this next week.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call us.
Ginny Kruse, Principal