Jul 29, 2014

Barnstable Officials Review School Safety Plans

Town of Barnstable officials are taking another look at school safety plans following the devastating school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in CT.

Superintendent Dr. Mary Czajkowski, School Committee Chairperson Margeaux Weber, Police Chief Paul MacDonald and Deputy Police Chief Craig Tamash met with the Barnstable Leadership team Monday morning. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and review current school safety plans.

School lock down drills are currently conducted with all staff and students and parents will be reminded how important it is to keep contact information updated with current work, cell and home phone numbers.

Principals of all Barnstable Schools will be reminding staff of safety protocol and will be providing them with additional information about responding to student concerns following the Sandy Hook tragedy.

In a statement released today town leaders provided the following information to help  parents deal with children that may have questions or fears about the shooting in CT:

All Adults Should:

1. Model calm and control. Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults  in their lives. Avoid appearing anxious or frightened.

2. Reassure children that they are safe and (if true) so are the other important adults in  their lives. Depending on the situation, point out factors that help insure their immediate  safety and that of their community.

3. Remind them that trustworthy people are in charge. Explain that the government  emergency workers, police, firefighters, doctors, and the military are helping people who  are hurt and are working to ensure that no further tragedies occur.

4. Let children know that it is okay to feel upset. Explain that all feelings are okay when  a tragedy like this occurs. Let children talk about their feelings and help put them into  perspective. Even anger is okay, but children may need help and patience from adults  to assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.

5. Observe children’s emotional state. Depending on their age, children may not
express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can  also indicate a child’s level of grief, anxiety or discomfort. Children will express their  emotions differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel or express grief.

6. Look for children at greater risk. Children who have had a past traumatic experience  or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs  may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Be particularly observant for  those who may be at risk of suicide. Seek the help of mental health professional if you  are at all concerned.

7. Tell children the truth. Don’t try to pretend the event has not occurred or that it is not  serious. Children are smart. They will be more worried if they think you are too afraid to  tell them what is happening.

8. Stick to the facts. Don’t embellish or speculate about what has happened and what  might happen. Don’t dwell on the scale or scope of the tragedy, particularly with young  children.

9. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. Early elementary school
children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that  the daily structures of their lives will not change. Upper elementary and early middle  school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe  and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality  from fantasy. Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and  varying opinions about the causes of violence and threats to safety in schools and  society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how  to prevent tragedies in society. They will be more committed to doing something to help the victims and affected community. For all children, encourage them to verbalize their  thoughts and feelings. Be a good listener!

10. Monitor your own stress level. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief, and  anger. Talking to friends, family members, religious leaders, and mental health  counselors can help. It is okay to let your children know that you are sad, but that you  believe things will get better. You will be better able to support your children if you can  express your own emotions in a productive manner. Get appropriate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.

What Parents Can Do:

1. Focus on your children over the week following the tragedy. Tell them you love them  and everything will be okay. Try to help them understand what has happened, keeping  in mind their developmental level.

2. Make time to talk with your children. Remember if you do not talk to your children  about this incident someone else will. Take some time and determine what you wish to say.

3. Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure them and give you the opportunity to monitor their reaction. Many children will want actual physical contact.  Give plenty of hugs. Let them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.

4. Limit your child’s television viewing of these events. If they must watch, watch with  them for a brief time; then turn the set off. Don’t sit mesmerized re-watching the same  events over and over again.

5. Maintain a “normal” routine. To the extent possible stick to your family’s normal  routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc., but don’t be inflexible. Children may  have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.

6. Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children before bed.  These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness and security, and reinforce a  sense of normalcy. Spend more time tucking them in. Let them sleep with a light on if  they ask for it.

7. Safeguard your children’s physical health. Stress can take a physical toll on children  as well as adults. Make sure your children get appropriate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.

8. Consider thinking hopeful thoughts for the victims and their families. It may be a good  time to take your children to your place of worship, write a poem, or draw a picture to  help your child express their feelings and feel that they are somehow supporting the  victims and their families.

9. Find out what resources your school has in place to help children cope. Most schools  are likely to be open and often are a good place for children to regain a sense of normalcy. Being with their friends and teachers can help. Schools should also have a plan for making counseling available to children and adults who need it.

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