UPDATE: Slog tipper Ben just forwarded a mass e-mail sent by José Banda, the superintendent of Seattle Schools. It's another useful resource for parents, and I'm posting it after the jump.
We were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that occurred this morning at an elementary school in Connecticut. In the aftermath of such tragic events, we want to share with you how we are working to make sure that our students’ needs are fully addressed.
We are closely monitoring the situation and have asked our principals to be extra vigilant in their schools today. We have not heard of any threats in Seattle, and our Security department reports normal operations in schools throughout the District.
According to state law, schools must conduct at least one safety-related drill each month that school is in session. Every school has a safety plan that outlines procedures for prevention, mitigation, response and recovery in the event of a crisis. Please know that we take safety in our buildings very seriously; the well-being of our students is our top concern.
It is a struggle for adults and children alike to try to comprehend why and how such a senseless and shocking incident could occur. Excessive and repeated media viewing can create increased anxiety and therefore limiting ongoing exposure is recommended. We are coordinating with schools and school guidance counselors to provide emotional support for students next week. Additionally, talking about the incident can be a healthy way for families to process their feelings and reactions to an event of this nature.
How to help children cope:
Listen to and accept children’s feelings. Give honest, simple, brief answers to their questions. Make sure they understand your answers and the meaning you intend. Use words or phrases that won’t confuse a child or make the world more frightening. Create opportunities for children to talk with each other about what happened and how they are feeling. Give your child an honest explanation. If you are feeling so upset you don’t want to talk about what happened. You may want to take “time out” and ask a trusted family friend to help. If children keep asking the same question over and over again it is because they are trying to understand; trying to make sense out of the disruption and confusion in their world. Younger children will not understand that death is permanent, so their repeated inquiries are because they expect everything to return to normal. If the child feels guilty, ask him or her to explain what happened. Listen carefully to whether he or she attaches a sense of responsibility to some part of the description. Explain the facts of the situation and emphasize that no one, least of all the child, could have prevented it. Let the school help. The child’s teacher can be sensitive to changes in the child’s behavior and will be able to respond in a helpful way. Even if you feel the world is an unsafe place, you can reassure your child by saying, “The event is over. Now we’ll do everything possible to stay safe, and together we can help get things back to normal.” Notice when children have questions and want to talk. Be especially loving and supportive; children need you at this time. Today is a tragic day. Our thoughts and hearts go out to the students, staff and families at Sandy Hook Elementary School.