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Saratoga Union School District Reacts to Connecticut School Shooting

Superintendent Lane Weiss expresses grief over tragedy and shares tips on how to speak to children about the shooting and gun violence.

Saratoga Union School District Superintendent Lane Weiss issued a statement on the agency's website this morning following the horrific mass shooting at a Connecticut school.

"This morning's shooting in Connecticut is a terrible, senseless tragedy. Our grief is made all the deeper when we think of the innocence of the lives lost and the valiant efforts of teachers, school staff, and school leaders to protect them.  Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and the entire school community.is a terrible, senseless tragedy," he wrote.

Weiss said district staff will be reviewing adopted safety procedures and communication protocols with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department and other appropriate experts and agencies.

The superintendent said it's a good time for parents to discuss with their children the importance of speaking to a trusted adult concerning matters that they hear about in the media and online. 

Helpful links regarding talking to your children about tragedy include:

"We continue to follow news reports of the tragedy in Connecticut while being mindful of our community and schools, and steps we can take to be proactive about safety," he said.

Saratoga Patch blogger Michelle McIntyre, who's a member of the California Sixth District PTA representing Santa Clara County, said children across the U.S. will be coming home from school with questions about this tragedy.

"Word about these things spreads fast, especially now that a lot of kids carry smartphones," she posted on our story about the tragedy on the site. 

McIntyre said the PTA has some tips to help children cope with violence, which were made available in July after the “Dark Knight” movie shooting.

 

Be Alert

  • Be alert to signs of upset in children. These signs may include withdrawal, lack of interest, acting out, fear of school or other activities, or anything that deviates from the child’s norm.

Listen

  • Listen carefully in order to learn what children know and are thinking.
  • Treat all questions with respect and seriousness. Do not “shush,” ignore or dismiss children.
  • Clarify questions so that you can understand what is being asked, what has led to the question and how much information a child wants. A child who asks: “Why was the World Trade Center attacked?” could be curious about the political issues of the attacks, or may be asking, “Could I or someone I love be hurt in an attack?” A good way to clarify what a child wants to know is to repeat the question to the child; for example, “You’ve been thinking about the attacks on the World Trade Center and are wondering why they happened.” In this way a child can say, “Yes, that is what I’ve been thinking,” or can correct what you said in order to redirect the conversation to something he or she wants to discuss.
  • Sometimes, without repeating the exact words, it is helpful to reflect what you think a child is feeling, as a way of giving a child the opportunity to confirm that you have understood, or to clarify. For example, you can say: “It sounds as if you’re afraid that something like this might happen again.”

Reassure

  • Review the facts of what actually happened.
  • Reassure children in age-appropriate ways that they are safe. When talking to toddlers, responses can be simple and direct: “I love you and I will always do everything I can to make you safe.”
  • Let children know that many people and organizations are working to make us safe, for example, police, rescue workers, and government and private agencies, such as ADL.
  • Reassure children that while there are people who do things that are hard to understand, we live in a wonderful country and, for the vast majority of the time, we are safe.

Be Honest

  • Answer questions as clearly and honestly as you can, using developmentally appropriate language and definitions. If you don’t know the answer to a child’s question, say so and make a plan to try to find out.
  • Correct yourself if you give incomplete or inaccurate information. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake; when we admit our mistakes, adults model for children how to admit their own mistakes. Be direct about acknowledging mistakes and avoid defensiveness; say, “I made a mistake.”
  • Acknowledge that there are people who hate other people, and that hateful actions can be threatening.

Share Your Perceptions

  • Share your perceptions and feelings but try to avoid conveying hopelessness. Without diminishing the seriousness of a situation, it is important to keep perspective and convey it to children.
  • Avoid giving young children more specific detail than necessary. Be careful not to frighten them. Limit children’s exposure to media coverage of violent events.

Take Action

  • Children need to know that people are not powerless in the face of hate and that there are many things children and adults can do.
  • Have regular discussions about ways people can address hate. Brainstorm ways to address these concerns at home, in school and in the community. Examples include speaking out against name-calling, making friends with people who are different, learning about many cultural groups and exploring ways to increase intergroup understanding. Discuss specific steps to make these things happen.
  • Help children understand that if hateful words go unchallenged, they can escalate to acts of physical violence. Discuss how hate behaviors usually begin with unkind words. Discuss and practice ways children can challenge name-calling and bullying. Even preschool children can learn to say, “Don’t call him that; that’s not his name!” or “Don’t call her that; she doesn’t like that!” or “Don’t call me that; it’s not fair!”
  • Help children understand that sometimes it might not be safe for them to intervene. Teach them to seek adult assistance when someone is being harassed or bullied.
  • Help your children feel good about themselves so that they learn to see themselves as people who can contribute to creating a better world.

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