Parents prep students for nervous return

In the wake of the tragic massacre in Newtown, Conn., local school superintendents want to make sure families are aware of safety practices and available resources.
In Westfield, Superintendent Suzanne Scallion sent a Blackboard Connect message to school families when news of the events swept the country. She sent another on Sunday to alert parents that the district website posted links to resources for families to deal with the tragedy, which took place less than two hours away.
Schools have a plan for such horrific events and perform emergency and lock-down drills.
In light of worldwide incidents of violence in schools, and realizing the need to be prepared in the event of any critical incident, the Gateway Regional School District has developed a Safe Schools Plan. According to the district’s website,the plan not only outlines appropriate responses to a crisis, but also supports all of our schools in creating and maintaining a safe environment, so that the likelihood of a crisis event is greatly reduced.
The plan begins with a philosophy about school safety and shared responsibility to monitor and assess the needs of students. The Safe Schools Plan outlines steps that staff should take in the event of things like an accident, bomb threat, violent incident, or evacuation due to a problem with the school building itself. School and district Response Teams have been created and trained to manage a range of emergencies. Through several federal grants, the district has been able to work with area and national experts on school safety in developing our plan and practicing its implementation.
All staff are trained and receive a copy of the Safe Schools Plan, along with a classroom or office emergency backpack containing supplies and paperwork that might be needed. The plan also provides guidance to staff in offering emotional first aid to students, and leading classroom discussions following a serious event in the school, community or larger world.
Gateway’s Safe Schools Plan helps improve school safety by requiring a single point of entry to all school buildings, and specific steps that school visitors are asked to follow.
Parents also play a special role in supporting their children through any tragic situation, and the plan offers information for parents.
Westfield School’s website offers the following resources for parents in helping their children deal with the tragedy:
Helping Children Cope After a School Shooting The ICHOC offers the following suggestions to help guide parents, teachers, and caring adults to best support children who may be grieving, concerned, or troubled by the school shooting:

How To Talk To Kids About A School Shooting from Aha! Parenting.Com

There Is No Lesson Plan For Tragedy – Teachers YOU Know What To Do A blog post from Angela Maiers

Talking with Children about School Violence: Advice from the Lucy Daniels Center in North Carolina and tailored for children 11 years old or younger.

Talking to Kids about School Safety: Mental Health America also offers suggestions, along with a list of signs that indicate a child may need help.

Caring for Kids After Trauma, Disaster and Death: A Guide for Parents and Professionals: A report published by The New York Child Study Center (PDF).

“Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers”: From the National Association of School Psychologists (PDF).

Talking to Children about Community Violence: advice from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

National Institute of Mental Health: A free booklet that describes what parents can do to help children and adolescents cope with violence and disasters.

PBS Parents: Tools for talking with kids of all ages about these difficult stories.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network: More tools for parents in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

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