On February 14, the nation suffered another school shooting, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the victims and their families, and we stand united with the Broward County Public Schools community.
Media coverage of this tragedy may have prompted questions and concerns from your children, and we want to provide resources that may help during these difficult conversations. High-profile acts of violence in schools can confuse and frighten students who may feel they, their friends or their loved ones are in danger. They will look to adults for guidance about how to react, and adults can help by talking with them about their fears. The National Association of School Psychologists offers effective ways to talk with students following such a traumatic event. Schools should:
- Create a sense of safety by returning to normal, predictable routines as soon as possible.
- Listen to the concerns and feelings of their students.
- Suggest that students limit their use of media to lower their stress and to maintain balance and perspective.
- Acknowledge that sleep difficulties are common and can lead to fatigue and poor participation.
For parents, the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends honesty with their children - acknowledging that bad things do happen, but reassure children with the information that many people are working to keep them safe, including their parents, teachers and local police. The APA also advises limiting children's exposure to news coverage following such traumatic events. Additional guidance can be found on the association's website
This incident also highlights the critical importance of ensuring that our schools remain safe places for our students and staff, which is our highest priority. South Bay has a safety plan that is specific to each school that is reviewed every year with law enforcement. The Board of Trustees approved the updated safety plans for every school and department at their regularly scheduled February meeting. These four inch binders of information were distributed in October 2017 and handbooks indicate the most current research-based protocols for dealing with every type of emergency situation. Additionally, fire drills are conducted in schools monthly and lockdown and earthquake drills are conducted four times each year. We have always had an outstanding relationship with local law enforcement and have redoubled our efforts to ensure that our procedures complement those of law enforcement. We have installed security fencing at each site and all visitors must check-in at the office before entering a campus. Finally, we have the benefit of many parents, students, teachers, administrators and staff on our campuses and we ask that you report any unusual and suspicious activity. Please talk to your children to remind them that they, too, can report anything suspicious. We want everyone on our campuses to be empowered to speak up about anything that looks out of place.
Please keep the families affected by this tragedy in your thoughts and prayers.