School Safety

As a former teacher and principal, I know that creating an environment where learning is fun and stress-free is just as important as the day’s lesson plan. For most children, the classroom is a wonderful place where they can explore and learn, leaving any anxieties behind.

The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School reminds us that there are people in this world who seek to create an environment of fear by targeting our youngest citizens. No parent should have to worry whether his or her child will make it home at the end of the day.

That is why every school district in our state has developed individual school emergency plans, using local resources and partnerships. Our state’s superintendents create these plans in conjunction with law enforcement officials, parents and teachers. In every plan and during each drill, your child’s safety is our top priority.

While we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of Florida’s classrooms, we need your help to alleviate the fears of students who may have watched coverage of Friday’s shooting. As parents, you not only have to deal with your child’s questions, but also your own emotions.

Here are a few strategies from national crisis intervention associations to help you and your family.

  • Minimize television viewing of this event.
  • Encourage your children to talk and share their feelings.
  • Remain calm as you discuss these events with them and with others.
  • Let your children know it’s okay to feel upset.
  • Assure your children that they are safe and are taken care of at home and at school.
  • Keep in perspective that these events are extremely rare.
  • Maintain a normal routine at home.
  • Point out the heroic efforts of teachers and first responders.
  • Be a good listener.

If your child wants to talk about a traumatic event, it is important to let them. Encourage your children to help those in Newtown, Connecticut, by sending letters of sympathy and concern. Monitor your own reactions to trauma and model good self-care. If your child or teen does not want to talk about it, be careful not to insist, but keep an eye on them for signs of distress.

As we reflect as a nation in aftermath of this terrible shooting, please know that Florida’s educators care deeply about your children, their education, and everyone’s safety.

The following are resources from professional associations to support educators, families, schools and communities in the aftermath of a crisis.

For parents:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Helpful guide to how children react differently to trauma than adults. “Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope after a Disaster or Traumatic Event.”

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

Resource guides for parents and caregivers. “Helping Children Cope With Crisis: Care for Caregivers” and “Tips for Teachers and Parents Following School and Community Violence.”

My Florida Families Blog

Blog from the Department of Children and Families. “Helping Kids Cope With Tragedy.”

For educators:

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

Resources for school personnel with individual guidelines for key school personnel (including superintendents and principals).

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Resource guides for preventing school emergencies.

The National Education Association (NEA)

School Crisis Guide for educators and administrators about how to respond to a school crisis, including providing advice for educator and parents on addressing these incidents with students in an age appropriate way.