While the topic of school violence is being discussed in classrooms everywhere on Monday in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, the Springs School District is going one step further and opening a dialogue for parents, as well.
The district will host a forum for parents on Monday from 4 to 6 p.m. Administrators and school psychologists will be on hand to give parents guidance on how to answer children's questions about what happened in Newtown.
"We want to make sure parents are getting support too," Eric Casale, the Springs School principal, said on Monday, after he spent the morning facilitating conversations with students. "I'm a parent of two boys and I have a child who just started middle school this year. It was a tough conversation to have. I didn't want him to go school being afraid," he said.
On Monday morning, at the school's spirit meet, which is part of the district's character education curriculum, Casale said he addressed what happened in a generic sense. "We didn't know what the kids were exposed to at home," he said, adding they discussed "good and bad decisions" with the children in kindergarten through fifth grades. "We let them know that the adults in the building love them."
For children in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, social workers talked to them by grade and then broke them up into smaller groups for "pretty in depth conversations," he said. "Amost every child knew what took place," Casale said, adding that 90 to 95 percent of them had had conversations with their parents over the weekend. Casale said he was happy to see that parents had already spoken to their children and had "good conversations about a tough topic."
"We are all struggling," Casale said. "With the funerals starting today and tomorrow, we wanted to make sure parents feel support." They will be given "talking points" on Monday night since children might be coming forward with more questions over the coming days.
Tips will be from “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers” from the National Association of School Psychologists. The document has also been attached here.
Rich Burns, the superintendent of the East Hampton School District, also recommended parents refer to these tips.
In addition, he said, "We at your district schools want you to be assured that we are doing everything in our power to maintain the safety of our students and staff in this terrible time of heightened awareness," Burns said in a letter to parents on Monday. "The East Hampton School District’s Safety Plans and Safety Procedures, which we review at the beginning of each school year, are being viewed again now with fresh eyes at all levels. Every tactic available to us will be employed to insure the security of our entire school population."
East Hampton High School principal Adam Fine said he has implemented a few security measures in the wake of the Newtown shooting, including locking the breezeway between the science wing and art wing.
A school-wide moment of silence was held on Monday morning. "I reassured the students that we have supports if they need to talk. I informed them of a few building-level security procedures which I instituted. A number of the teachers spoke with the students in their classes as the topics came up," he said in an email.