It's the questions parents will ask themselves after a horrifying incident such as the shooting Friday morning at a Connecticut elementary school.
How can I protect my children? Are they safe at school?
Twenty-seven people were killed — the majority of them children between the ages of 5 and 10 — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The violence is the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Some security measures were in place at Sandy Hook.
The school's doors are locked at 9:30 a.m. and visitors are required to sign in, according to the school's website.
When the violence erupted Friday morning, the school went on "lockdown," according to media reports. That means teachers and staff locked students inside classrooms rather than risk evacuation.
In response to the shooting and the understandable concerns, Martinez Unified School District Superintendent Rami Muth sent the following letter home to parents on Friday afternoon.
"We are all saddened by the horrific school shooting that occurred today in Connecticut. Our hearts go out to the parents and families of those involved in this senseless tragedy. I want to assure all parents that we have in place safety and security procedures to protect our students and staff. School shootings are extremely rare and high profile incidents like these tend to overshadow the fact that violent crime has been steadily decreasing in schools since the early 1990s. With that said, we also realize that no community is immune to such incidents, and that we must do everything possible (and within reason) to ensure the safety of our students. Our crisis counseling teams will be prepared and ready to assist students, parents and staff in dealing with this tragedy. School personnel are trained to notice children who may be struggling emotionally and provide them with the support they need. Please feel free to contact your child’s teacher if you have concerns about your child. Additionally, our leadership and local law enforcement will be working together to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
The best prevention strategies, however, involve the awareness and alertness of students, staff members and parents. I wish to emphasize the importance of notifying the school/district if you see or hear of a student or other individual who may have the intent or potential to harm self or others. Students are encouraged to talk to an adult on campus if they are concerned about school safety. This is a good time for parents to discuss with their children the importance of speaking to a trusted adult concerning matters that they hear about in the media and online. It is critical to monitor the exposure that children have to television and radio at this time. Exposure to the news about this mass shooting may lead to anxiety and fear in children and youth.
I want to make available to you some resources that can help provide comfort to children both at home and at school during times like these. You may find the following resources helpful:
· Parent Guidelines for Crisis Response by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress; www.aaets.org/parentguidelines.pdf
· California Department of Education, Counseling and Student Support Services Branch; Information on coping with tragedy, www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh/
· American School Counselor Association; www.schoolcounselor.org
· Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA for Kids); General guidelines about helping children in a disaster, www.fema.gov/kids/
In closing, I would like to reassure you that all our staff is trained and well prepared to deal campus safety, security and student needs and safety remain our number one priority.
Thank you for your continued support."