Editor's note: All Minnetonka elementary principals sent out the following note to parents today.
In light of the events that were happening in Connecticut, I want to assure you that the staff and I have made it our highest priority to keep students feeling safe and comfortable today at school. As always, we have controlled access to the school and have asked parents coming into the building not to discuss today’s news with children at school.
We communicated the situation via a confidential email to all staff and asked that they keep all discussion of events at an absolute minimum, and in no case discuss events around children. We have limited elementary students access to the internet and news sources as well. Generally, students are unaware of any concerns and experienced a very productive day.
In Minnetonka Schools, we take safety and security very seriously and have safety plans in place, including having upgraded all of our secure entrances within the last five years. We will use this situation as a reminder to once again review our safety protocols with staff and students in the coming days. All Minnetonka Schools practice lock-down drills a few times a year and have lock-down procedures in place. Still, we continue to be reminded from violent events at shopping malls, movie theaters, work places and schools, that we must be diligent; everyone in our school community plays a role in keeping our children safe.
We know that in most every case you, as parents, will be charged with the serious task of discussing with your child the event of the day. We hope you will find the following tips helpful guidance this evening.
1. Reassure your children that there will be always be adults there to take care of them, whether at home, in school, or in day care. Provide reassurance to each other. Children’s greatest fear is being separated from or losing their family.
2. Reassure your children that we keep our school buildings secure. During the year, we also practice when our classroom doors need to be locked so that we can stay safe.
3. Keep your day-to-day routines. Have meals together, follow bedtime rituals, enjoy each other.
4. Minimize your child’s exposure to news media today and this weekend. Seeing repeated images of tragedy or violence are not good for children. If your children are watching news reports, be there with them so you can explain what they are seeing and hearing. Children need accurate information. But, remember that children do not process complex information the same way adults do; they do not have the geographic or cultural perspective that adults have.
5. Validate your children’s worries, feelings, and confusion – accept their questions, listen and talk with patience. Your honest information regarding the situation should be at their level of understanding.
6. We need to help our children maintain a sense of hope for the future. Help them to visualize an eventual resolution to a scary, sad and anger filled situation. “People have lots of work to do to get the world back together. Someday we’ll be able to figure out a peaceful way to settle fights.”
7. Think of ways on how to make the world better, more peaceful place, do something positive with your children – write letters, display a flag, make peace chains.
8. Children may act out in an attempt to gain control over their understanding. Watch carefully for signs of nightmares, eating problems, excessive anxiety, or anger. Contact your school support staff or consult a professional therapist if symptoms persist.
9. Stay calm.
Please know that our staff will begin the day Monday with an opportunity for students to discuss the situation briefly along with a review of our safety procedures at school. School support staff are also available if you need additional assistance.
If you have any additional questions, don't hesitate to call.