How the SDUC is ensuring the safety of our students and staff
Dear District Families,
Our hearts go out to the families who lost loved ones during the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut Friday, and we are holding good thoughts for the school and community as it heals. Perhaps news about this incident makes you question your child’s safety at school, so I want to assure you that our schools are safe and that we take our responsibility for ensuring your child’s safety seriously.
While no amount of planning can guarantee that a tragedy like this will not occur, we are doing everything in our power to keep our students and staff safe. You should know that our high school is staffed with a full-time school resource officer, certified security officer, and facility assistants who are in place to patrol the halls and assist with safety and security measures as needed. A school resource officer is housed at the middle school on a daily basis along with facility assistants. We also have two additional certified security officers who are dispatched as needed along with an additional school resource officer who rotates at the elementary and secondary school levels. Currently, individuals must be “buzzed in” to enter the Julia Goldstein Early Childhood Center after a specific time when the doors lock. In the future, we will have a school resource officer circulate through the early childhood center as well. We are in the process of having locks installed on the classroom doors of the early childhood center.
Principals, classroom staff, and administrators are trained to implement our safety policies, procedures and to respond to emergency situations. Additionally, we work closely with local police and other emergency responders to ensure that our schools are safe.
I want to encourage you to consider this incident as an opportunity to review our Student Discipline handbook with your child, remind him or her that weapons are not allowed on school property and encourage your children to report unsafe situations to a teacher or other trusted adult.
As always, our counselors and administrators are available to respond to students who need to express their feelings. It is also important for you to sit down with your child and talk them through this difficult time, so I am sharing tips from the National Association of School Psychologists that I hope you find helpful.
- Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
- Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily.
- Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
- Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them.
- Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
- Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
- Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
- Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of a mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
- Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
- Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.
We are dedicated to maintaining a strong partnership with parents and guardians in our effort to provide the very best education for our students and appreciate your continued support as a partner in your child's safety. Thanks for entrusting your child to us.
Superintendent of Schools
The above letter was sent on December 17, 2012.