Local schools assure students of safety in wake of tragedy

When District 11 teachers got to school Monday morning, they knew students might be a little uneasy in light of Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Before the school day started, those teachers found a note from Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson, who urged them to “make today (Monday) as normal as you can for students.”

In response to students’ questions about the tragedy, Carlson said he wanted staff to keep answers brief and simple and to reassure students that they are safe at school.

Flags at all Anoka-Hennepin schools were flown at half-staff as a symbol of remembrance and respect for the children and school staff who lost their lives in the shooting Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  Photo by Sue Austreng

Flags at all Anoka-Hennepin schools were flown at half-staff as a symbol of remembrance and respect for the children and school staff who lost their lives in the shooting Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Photo by Sue Austreng

A letter to parents and guardians sent to the schools from the Anoka-Hennepin School District office stated, “I want to assure you that safety is our top priority and that our school has a comprehensive crisis plan in place to help avoid tragedies such as this.”

Also in that letter were some valuable tips from the National Association of School Psychologists that gives ideas to parents on how they can help children cope with tragedy.

Those tips include assuring their children that they are loved and protected, talking with them, staying close to them, focusing on their behaviors and moods, limiting their exposure to television coverage of the shooting, spending extra time with them at bedtime, safeguarding children’s physical health and maintaining as “normal” a routine as possible.

At the close of the school day Monday, middle and high school principals shared a message with students, urging them to “please take a moment to think about small acts of kindness you can do for others in memory of those (Sandy Hook Elementary School) children and the school staff who cared for them.”

Also, District 11 principals were asked to post on their website or include in the school newsletter a statement from the district office reassuring parents and students of the safety measures practiced at the schools, crisis training staff has undergone and lockdown drills that students and staff practice together.

Parents were also assured that new recommendations from federal law enforcement that may come as a result of the Sandy Hook tragedy will also be added to school’s crisis plans if necessary.

“We want to reassure you that our schools remain safe and we will do our utmost to protect the children entrusted to us,” said the message posted on schools’ websites.

And principals’ messages to the students echoed those words.

“We want you to know that we cherish each of you and will do our best to keep you safe in school,” the principals said.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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