The following letter was emailed to all LMSD families and posted on the school district website on Friday afternoon.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the community and families of Newtown, Connecticut as they deal with today’s unspeakable tragedy. There are simply no words to describe the emotions many of us are feeling right now and no explanation for how something like this could happen.
This afternoon, we received several inquiries from parents regarding general safety and security procedures in our schools, a District response to this incident, and ways to address this tragedy with children. We hope to answer some of these questions in this letter and encourage you to refer to the links below for additional information.
General Safety and Security
- The District maintains a variety of active security measures at all times, including locked exterior doors, mandatory check-in procedures at school entrances, video surveillance, alarms and campus security personnel.
- A comprehensive emergency operations plan guides our response to emergency situations at the District and school level. Staff are trained to implement emergency procedures and participate in practice drills throughout the year. Students receive training as well, including participation in lockdown drills during the year.
- All classrooms have a quick-reference, crisis response guide that covers situations ranging from kidnapping and assaults to medical emergencies and mass casualties.
- The District and local law enforcement have a very strong partnership. Law enforcement personnel regularly participate in the review of our security and emergency procedures.
- The District’s top priority is the safety, security and well-being of all students. Every decision we make is driven by this guiding principle.
- Immediately upon learning about today’s incident, I gathered principals for a conference call to make sure everyone was aware of the situation and had staff in place to respond to questions and concerns at the building level.
- We contacted local law enforcement to see if they had specific recommendations or advisories related to this incident. We were informed that the police would be making additional patrols near our buildings. They advised us to follow our existing procedures.
- We provided additional staff supervision during the day in all school settings where students may have been outdoors, including at elementary school recess.
- Our safety and security staff reviewed the District’s emergency operations plan per protocol.
Speaking with Your Child
The American Psychological Association provides a number of recommendations on handling crises with your children. The following is valuable information from the APA website:
Talk to your children
Psychologists who work in the area of trauma and recovery advise parents to use the troubling news of school shootings as an opportunity to talk and listen to their children. It is important, say these psychologists, to be honest about what has happened. Parents are encouraged to acknowledge to children that bad things do happen, but also reassure them with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers, and local police.
Young children may communicate their fears through play or drawings. Elementary school children will use a combination of play and talking to express themselves. Adolescents are more likely to have the skills to communicate their feelings and fears verbally. Adults should be attentive to a child's concerns, but also try to help the children put their fears into proportion to the real risk. Again, it is important to reassure children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their environment—school, home, and neighborhood—safe for them.
Limit exposure to news coverage
Parents should also monitor how much exposure a child has to news reports of traumatic events, including these recent school shootings. Research has shown that some young children believe that the events are reoccurring each time they see a television replay of the news footage.
Know the warning signs
Most children are quite resilient and will return to their normal activities and personality relatively quickly, but parents should be alert to any signs of anxiety that might suggest that a child or teenager might need more assistance. Such indicators could be a change in the child's school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, school refusal, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomachaches, or loss of interest in activities that the child used to enjoy. Also remember that every child will respond to trauma differently. Some will have no ill effects; others may suffer an immediate and acute effect. Still others may not show signs of stress until sometime after the event.
For more information, visit the APA Help Center at apahelpcenter.org. Our school counselors are also available to answer any questions and concerns you may have.
Please contact your school principal or your child’s school counselor if you have any questions or would like additional information. Our teachers and staff members will be given resource materials prior to the start of school on Monday to address student concerns.
Thank you for your cooperation and understanding at this difficult time.
Dr. Christopher McGinley
Superintendent of Schools
Dealing with Crisis: Resources for Parents
Contains information about "Discussing Hate and Violence with Your Children."
PBS.org - Talking With Kids About the News
Develop strategies for discussing today's headlines with children. Learn how to calm their fears and stimulate their minds.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Talking to Children about Community Violence
The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and the New York Life Foundation have partnered to develop a booklet providing practical advice on how parents and other adults can support grieving children.
Lessons Learned from the Shootings at Columbine High School
This pamphlet talks about the immediate response and the long-term impact that took place in the wake of the Columbine shootings. It also discusses the human impact of both of these and how positive relationships can mediate the negative effects of this crisis.