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In the Wake of Sandy Hook, Mamaroneck and Rye Neck Schools Prepared

Both the Mamaroneck and Rye Neck School Districts have reached out to parents regarding school safety.

 

In the wake of the unspeakable tragedy that occurred on Friday, Dec. 14 in Newtown, CT, many local school districts are left wondering if the security precautions they have in place are adequate enough to deter the random and sudden acts of violence that have plagued campuses across the nation for years.

Locally, the Mamaroneck School District is reviewing their safety measures to determine what, if any, changes need to be implemented, said Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps in a letter sent out to the community today.

"During the past couple years, we have worked closely with outside safety consultants and have heightened our emphasis on emergency preparedness.  We will continue to work diligently to do so in the days and weeks ahead, making it a priority to enforce security measures, monitor and evaluate our plans.  

Each of our schools has a crisis response team with selected members who have participated in training to ensure appropriate response on a variety of potential school emergencies, including medical emergencies," the letter went on to say.  A copy of the full letter can be accessed on the school's website here.

Additionally, the District has a comprehensive plan in place that includes, among other things, "the definition of roles and responsibilities in different emergency situations; evacuation protocol; information about communicating with parents, the community and media and coordinating with town officials/entities,  and some details pertaining to specific kinds of emergency situations," said District Spokesperson Debbie Manetta.

School counselors are also on alert and will be available for students who are having difficulty processing the tragic events. Faculty members at all District schools were prepped by administration on how to deal with both parent and student concerns.

In the Rye Neck School District, Superintendent Dr. Peter Mustich will be available on Wednesday, Dec. 19 at 9 a.m. at F.E. Bellows Elementary School and at 7 p.m. at Rye Neck High School to discuss the school's safety and security procedures with concerned parents.

Rye Neck school psychologists and counselors have compiled a list of resources on their website here to use as talking points for conversations with children about the tragedy. 

A partial list of what parents and schools can do to help children cope with tragic events has been excerpted from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) website.  The full list can be viewed here. 

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 praying or 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.  

What Schools Can Do:

  1. Assure children that they are safe and that schools are well prepared to take care of all children at all times.

  2. Maintain structure and stability within the schools. It would be best, however, not to have tests or major projects within the next few days.

  3. Have a plan for the first few days back at school.  Include school psychologists, counselors, and crisis team members in planning the school’s response.

  4. Provide teachers and parents with information about what to say and do for children in school and at home.

  5. Have teachers provide information directly to their students, not during the public address announcements.

  6. Have school psychologists and counselors available to talk to students and staff who may need or want extra support.

  7. Be aware of students who may have recently experienced a personal tragedy or a have personal connection to victims or their families.  Even a child who has merely visited the affected area or community may have a strong reaction. Provide these students extra support and leniency if necessary. 

  8. Know what community resources are available for children who may need extra counseling. School psychologists can be very helpful in directing families to the right community resources.

  9. Allow time for age appropriate classroom discussion and activities. Do not expect teachers to provide all of the answers. They should ask questions and guide the discussion, but not dominate it. Other activities can include art and writing projects, play acting, and physical games.

  10. Be careful not to stereotype people or countries that might be associated with the tragedy. Children can easily generalize negative statements and develop prejudice. Talk about tolerance and justice versus vengeanceStop any bullying or teasing of students immediately.

  11. Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety, fear or anger to mental health counselors in the school. Inform their parents.

  12. Provide an outlet for students’ desire to help.  Consider making get well cards or sending letters to the families and survivors of the tragedy, or writing thank you letters to doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals as well as emergency rescue workers, firefighters and police.

  13. Monitor or restrict viewing scenes of the event as well as the aftermath.

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