Dear Millburn parents,
The elementary school shooting in Connecticut earlier today is one of the most horrific scenarios I can imagine. The magnitude and the setting and the unfolding details make for evil and tragedy that words cannot describe.
I need to share with you some important information related to this tragedy:
1. Please know that we have a very specific set of security drills and protocols that we conduct at our schools on a regular basis that are intended to help prepare for a situation such as what happened earlier today. In fact, we had a lock-down drill scheduled at Wyoming today (that we rescheduled given the day's events). Our students and staff know what to do in an emergency, and we practice regularly to reinforce concepts and routines. To be sure, no amount of planning or practice can prevent something like this from happening, but it can help us be prepared. Our strong partnership with local law enforcement officials means they are a part of every drill we have, and their tactical response protocols are 100% in sync with our procedures.
2. Nobody knows your child better than you do, so how you address this with him or her can certainly be tailored to your family's needs, but I do want to share some general guidelines below. It will be very important for our students here in Millburn to be reassured that our schools are safe and that the adults in their lives care about them and look out for them. Adults at home, and adults at school. This is an incredibly troubling incident for somebody my age--we can only imagine how school-aged children receive and process what they will see and hear about it.
Here are some additional quick response guidelines, courtesy of Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News:
- Many people will want to know how to talk to their children about this. Important to remember that children at different ages and levels of development will react differently.
- Know your child. Every child is different and a lot has to do with knowing how they react.
- For young children (under 7), shield them from this. They should not be exposed to reports of this tragedy. They don’t need to know about it. [MY NOTE: To that end, you may want to consider monitoring/censoring the information they take in on TV or online regarding this tragedy, as the images are graphic and they can absolutely be unsettling and disturbing. Should they find out, then answer their questions in an honest and reassuring manner.]
- For older children, what they want to hear from you is that they are safe. They will look at you to see how you're reacting for a cue, and if you are all over the place on this, that will be how they process this. But if you're sad, if you're expressing appropriate emotion, they will see that it's okay to have some fear or that it's okay to be worried about this. You want them to talk about it. You want to ask, how do you feel about this? And then, it's so important to support their feelings. If your child says, "I'm really scared," the worst thing you can do is say, "Well, there's no reason or need to be scared." You want to let them know that your job is to keep them safe, that it issafe, and that the person who did this has been caught.
- With teenagers, you really want to engage them and see what their thoughts are. Why do they think this happened? Is there anything they think that could have prevented this? And you can have a real conversation out of that. You may be able to channel them to a community project or some act of charity so that they feel they are taking positive action.
- Watch for signs of difficulty coping. Difficulty sleeping or doing the daily activities that need to get done. If these are present and persist, seek professional help. [MY NOTE: We will have professionals on hand district-wide come Monday morning (and all week if need be) to help students and staff members with any lingering or developing concerns.]
For a more detailed review of how we adults can help children (and ourselves) cope, please click on the link below:
In closing, I have to say that this has been a very tough day. Give your loved ones an extra hug tonight and let's be sure our thoughts are with all those families in Connecticut.