Children should know schools are safe

Dec. 16, 2012 @ 02:37 PM

Although school is usually one of the safest places to be, some young students may have to be reassured of that in wake of the deaths of 20 of children, ranging from 6-7 years old, in a school in Newtown, Conn.
The Friday shootings were one of the most gruesome outbreaks of violence against children in modern American history. Meanwhile, television and Internet news reports of the massacre continue to remind people of the horror in disturbing images.
Children in Newtown probably will not return to school on Monday.  But across the nation, others will.
Parents and teachers should reassure children that they are safe at school.
“At school, teachers may want to give extra hugs if a child appears upset,” said Debbie Linville, an associate professor of education at High Point University. “They can also use children’s literature to help provide peace and understanding that the world is a wonderful place to play and work.”
In the Guilford County Schools, educators have security plans in place and they also work closely with local law enforcement and the county emergency management office.
“Teachers have been training to handle these situations since the 1990s,” Linville said.  “These teachers were knowledgeable about what to do and not leaving the classroom until they knew it was safe. I would not be surprised if there are more discussions and practice at schools about safety.” 
During her teaching career, Linville never had to deal with such an attack and the tragedy of the aftermath.
“I have had friends who lost children in accidents,” she said. “But this was a normal school day. This is a tragedy.”
As president of the High Point Community Foundation, Paul Lessard is close to the local schools.
“High Pointers care about each other, and our children are safe in school,” Lessard said. “Adults treat children as if they are their own. There is just no excuse for what happened at that school in Newtown. We need to get a handle on this kind of violence.”
Prevention may come down to making the consequences of such an attack so severe that potential shooters will not consider violence, if in fact they intend to survive.
“There has to be accountability,” Lessard said. “There is a broken record in these cases. So many times, the shooter goes to a mental facility and then is later released from prison. We need to focus on that.”
For the next few weeks parents should be careful about allowing their children see images of the carnage, Linville said.
“You should limit television viewing,” she said. “Let the child take the lead with the questions, and don’t offer too much information. Tell them that school is safe and a good place to learn.”
Even the youngest of school children will hear about the shootings from friends.
“Some children may not be fully aware,” Linville said. “If there are questions, consider them in a positive light.”

Mourning: Charlotte-based Mothers of Murdered Offspring is calling for a Nationwide Evening of Mourning on Tuesday to remember the 20 children and eight adults shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday to send a strong message of togetherness.