The following is a message from Walpole Public Schools Superintendent Lincoln Lynch.
By now you are aware of the devastating tragedy in Newtown, CT. This afternoon our school leadership team met to discuss strategies for the Walpole students returning to school tomorrow morning. The meeting included representatives from law enforcement and the Chairman of the School Committee. Tomorrow all schools will be open and operating under normal schedules. It is inevitable with hundreds of students coming together that your child will in some way or another hear about the tragedy. We encourage you as their primary teacher to process the incident with your child first before they may potentially hear mis-information from others. We have posted several research-based informative websites on the school district main webpage.
Principals will conduct voluntary staff meetings prior to school opening in each school. Teachers will be given guidance on answering questions or recommending students experiencing unusual fear or anxiety to speak with school counselors. The building principal will be making a brief statement to all students in an age-appropriate manner to reassure them that we are doing everything possible to keep them safe. The message will be honest, brief and reassuring.
Although no school can guarantee 100% safety or security, we have revisited our emergency protocols with law enforcement and are prepared to handle such incidents as best as humanly possible. We are also working with law enforcement and will have heightened police presence at all schools tomorrow. While it is ultimately your decision, we encourage you to have your child return to school as experts advise that children get a sense of security from their common routine. Please contact the school principal if you have any special concerns.
As your Superintendent, and a father of three, I assure you we are taking all measures possible to ensure a safe and secure environment in our school buildings for students and staff.
Below are links to resources to assist parents and teachers in talking to children about school violence.
National Association of School Psychologists | English Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
National Association of School Psychologists | Spanish
Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
The American Academy of Pediatrics | School Shootings
National Association of School Psychologists on Talking to Children About Violence
University of Minnesota | Talking to Kids About Violence Against Kids
Common Sense Media | Explaining the News To Our Kids
Additional advice from Bradley Hospital:
1. Sort out your own feelings before speaking to your child. The single most important factor in how your child reacts is your reaction to the event and your interaction with your child. How you handle it will STRONGLY impact how your child handles it. It is not only what you say, it is also how you say it. Stay calm.
2. Invite and listen to your child's questions and concern. Questions might come up now and again later - make sure that you let your child know that their questions are always welcome. Before you talk with your child, hear what it is they want to know about before you share too much information.
3. Think of your child's developmental level when speaking with them (their age, their vocabulary, etc.).
4. Let your child know that they are safe.
5. If you watch the television, do it together. Limit your child's exposure to this traumatic information.
6. Keep your family schedule and routine.