Dear Liberty Families,
After the tragedy in Texas yesterday, we have had several questions from our families regarding school safety and preparedness. While there is absolutely no way for a school to ever be fully prepared for such a horrific act, be assured, Liberty takes school safety and preparedness seriously. Please see below for suggestions on coping with trauma provided by our County Office of Education.
While most schools send just a few staff members to the National School Emergency Response Training (SERT) preparedness program, most of our school staff has participated in this training. This training consists of: use of the Incident Command System used by all emergency responders, procedures for evacuation, shelter in place, lockdown, dealing with the aftermath, student-parent reunification, needed equipment and supplies, and further local emergency planning resources.
Annually, one of our staff training days is dedicated to emergency preparedness and safety. As a part of the training, our staff members renew their CPR, AED (defibrillator), and EPI pen (severe allergic reaction) certifications. In addition, our staff works in their emergency response groups (assembly and shelter, search and locate, first aid, facilities and maintenance, student release, and communication) to plan and prepare how their group would respond to any number of emergencies. We have practiced lockdown procedures as a staff. Each time we run a drill, we meet to debrief the incident and look at how we can further improve our response.
While our local emergency preparedness trainers have consistently told us that Liberty School is one of the better prepared schools in the county, we continue to work to improve our planning. Over the past years, we have had outside emergency responder groups run an emergency response drill with us during the school day. In each case, we have run through the incident they brought to us and then had a written critique to review our actions and let us know how we can improve. In the future, we will continue to prepare our school, staff and children as best as we can.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities tragically impacted by this event. While we can never begin to understand such a horrible situation, we can at least use it as a reminder to continue to support, nurture, and protect our children.
HOW TO HELP CHILDREN COPE WITH TRAUMA/GRIEF
1. Listen – Provide opportunities for children to talk and express whatever they are feeling and thinking.
2. Be supportive and non-judgmental – Let children have their own reactions. Don’t tell children what they should or should not feel.
3. Support children in expressing feelings, verbally and non-verbally – Talking, crying, drawing, writing and playing are all helpful ways to process reactions. Children will often work through their feelings through play and may re-enact the death, trauma, funeral, etc. with playmates, dolls and other toys. This is a normal and healthy way for children to heal.
4. Be honest and provide accurate information appropriate to the child’s ability to understand and wish to know – In order to cope, children need to trust that we will be honest with them. The unknown and the imagined can be much more terrifying than the truth.
5. Be patient – Realize that this will take time. Children may take longer than adults to resolve trauma and grief. Their processing of it may be intermittent. They may need to ask the same questions over and over.
6. Share your feelings – It is okay for children to know that you are human and have feelings, too, but don’t overburden your children with your anxieties. Make sure you take care of yourself and have good support from other adults.
7. Provide affection and reassurance regarding safety issues – Let your children know that they are loved and that the adults in their lives will do their best to keep them safe. Children may temporarily need extra safety measures: i.e., sleeping in your room, leaving lights on, etc. You may want to say, “We will do this for a while and then get back to normal.”
8. Maintain order, security and stability in your children’s lives – Children need regular routines and structure to continue as much as possible.
9. Give choices so that children have a sense of control and participation – Ask: What would help you feel safe?
10. Memorialize – Light candles. Create a scrapbook or memory book. Write letters to the person who has died. Ritual helps us heal.
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