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University Place Superintendent Patti Banks Responds To Connecticut School Shooting

She wrote that it's important to shield students from repeated, potentially frightening news coverage and images of such terrible events.

(Editor's note: University Place Superintendent Patti Banks posted the following letter on the school district's website in response to today's school shooting in Newtown, CT)

December 14, 2012

Dear UPSD Families and Friends,

By now most of you may have heard about the tragic school shooting that occurred earlier today in Newtown, Connecticut.  In the immediate aftermath of such terrible events, we always want to assure parents, guardians and community members that we place the highest priority on keeping our students and staff safe.  Additionally, we believe it is important to shield our students from repeated, potentially frightening news coverage and images of such terrible events; in this particular case, our students were within less than two hours of release from school for the Winter break. They should be home with you by the time you read this letter.

As students become aware of the terrible details of this incident, there are some strategies that psychologists and guidance counselors recommend for adults to help reassure children and young people, and restore their sense of safety.  Here are some of those suggestions:

  • Turn off or carefully monitor television and internet coverage, which will no doubt be extensive, be filled with heartbreaking images and likely include coverage of the intense shock and grief being experienced by those in the Newtown school community.  Endless revisiting of the event and the strong emotions associated with it can heighten children’s anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and their personal realities.
  • Maintain as normal a routine as possible; were our students in school, this would be our primary message to our staff members.  The reason is that normal routines are comforting and reassuring to children--even those of  high school age.
  • Answer your child’s questions in a calm, direct and factual manner.  Remain calm and reassuring; children take their cues from their parents and other adults.
  • Monitor your child for signs of distress, and particularly changes in behavior.

We are vigilant in our efforts to keep our students and staff safe.  We will, as we always do, review our crisis plans in light of this tragedy as well as reinforce school security and campus visitor procedures.  As part of this effort, we want to continue to reach out to our families and school communities to build greater awareness and knowledge regarding these plans. These plans can be accessed under “Safety Plan / Communication Center” on the district webpage.

We are all dedicated to working with you to protect and nurture your children.  If there is anything we can do to help support your child, now or when school returns, please feel free to contact me directly.  You can reach me at pbanks@upsd.wednet.edu, or by phone at 566-5600.

Sincerely,

Patti Banks

Superintendent

Brent Champaco December 14, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Thank you for this, Patti. It's extremely helpful during these though times.
another mom December 15, 2012 at 04:05 PM
My child was a student at Drum Middle School 3 years ago when the young man with the knife entered the building. I did not find the response of the principal or the school district at all satisfactory. I hope things have improved significantly since that time.
South Hill Night Out.com December 26, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Thank You Patti for this information and the fact that it is important to save our children from the Media ear pounding facts concerning this scentless killing spree. The Kids do not need to have their safe place turned into a battle zone of armchair Media Addicts who just do not know when to STOP!

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