In light of yesterday's school shooting in Parkland, Florida, I would like to share a message sent to families of Shrewsbury Public Schools students by the Superintendent today, which addresses not only the measures we take in Shrewsbury to keep our schools as safe as possible, but also ways in which adults can communicate effectively with students on the topic. I've added in some links that were embedded in the original message:
February 15, 2018
Dear Shrewsbury Families,
Over the past twenty-plus years that I have been a school administrator, there have been three school shootings that have resulted in major news coverage and significant reactions from parents, students, and staff: Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999; Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012; and now Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Please allow me to share my perspective in the wake of this most recent tragedy and provide some resources that may assist you in discussing it with your children.
These incidents are disturbing to all of us, and it is easy to personalize them. It is natural to feel a range of emotions when we see the news of tragedies where young people are senselessly murdered, and it is normal to have thoughts of “What if?” regarding our own children and schools. While this is scary to think about for all of us, as adults we need to do our best to be calm and reassuring with our children, rather than transmitting fear and anxiety.
Schools are very safe places for our children, but the barrage of media reports regarding a mass school shooting make them seem less safe. Statistically, children are much less likely to be harmed at school than elsewhere, even though they spend considerable time there. In fact, schools have actually become much more safe in recent years. However, it is understandable to feel as if schools are less safe when we see news of school shootings, and there have been a number of them in 2018 alone.
Social media has amplified fear. A major difference between Columbine and Stoneman Douglas is the firsthand recording and dissemination of video of the event itself that is possible due to smartphones and social media. There are first-person videos from students who were part of yesterday’s incident that are being circulated around social media, including videos that graphically show students being shot and killed. I strongly encourage parents and caretakers to limit media exposure regarding this incident and to speak to your children who have access to social media about whether they have seen any of these videos. It is understandably difficult for anyone to witness such awful things, but especially children and teens. Please click here (www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/talking-to-child...) and here (www.apa.org/topics/violence/school-shooting.aspx) for resources regarding how to talk with your children about violence and school shootings.
Shrewsbury is a very safe community overall. This new ranking of safe communities (www.safewise.com/blog/safest-cities-massachusetts/) places our town as the second safest in Massachusetts with regard to crime statistics. Many may find this reassuring.
While no one can ever guarantee that something bad won’t happen here, we also need to take a measured, reasonable approach to safety and security. We prepare thoughtfully for bad possibilities, with an approach to safety and security that is reasonable for our circumstances. In the aftermath of a major school shooting, some parents will reach out with suggestions that we institute additional security measures such as installing metal detectors, hiring armed security guards, and installing various other security features. These suggestions are understandable when there is fear for our children’s safety in the aftermath of a tragic school shooting. Parents’ suggestions for ways to make our schools safer are always welcome. However, please know that we already have very good systems in place, and when we distance ourselves from our reaction to a tragedy, I think most will agree that it is neither prudent nor pragmatic to take steps that would turn our schools into maximum security facilities. There is risk inherent in living our lives, and we need to manage that risk in a balanced way, whether that comes to driving our cars, taking an airplane flight, or addressing school safety.
The Shrewsbury Public Schools, Shrewsbury Police Department, and Shrewsbury Fire Department have been working together for many years in an effort to make our schools safe. We, along with our community partners, are constantly reviewing our safety plans and procedures, conducting drills, and making improvements in an ongoing manner. Additionally, our school district has a Transportation, Safety, & Security Coordinator and the Police Department deploys two full-time police officers as School Resource Officers at our schools (one located at SHS and one located at Oak Middle who is responsible for Grades PreK-8).
Our staff and students prepare for possible emergencies. In addition to traditional fire evacuation drills, our students and staff participate in lockdown, lockout, and shelter in place drills that could apply to intruder or active shooter incidents, as well as other scenarios such as a tornado threat. About two years ago, our Safety & Security Committee adopted many elements of the Standard Response Protocol (iloveuguys.org/srp.html) as a framework for our approach to emergency response. Our school administrators also have been educated to work with Shrewsbury Police and Fire regarding the Incident Command System (training.fema.gov/emiweb/is/icsresource/assets/reviewmaterials.pdf) that our public safety departments use in the event of an emergency.
The most important school safety work we do is creating caring, respectful school environments where students are supported and feel comfortable reaching out to adults. We know that the potential for school violence is minimized when students feel connected to their school community, when they have access to supports for their emotional well-being, and when students who perceive something is not right with a situation tell a trusted adult. We actively work to create these kinds of school cultures.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Again, for more information regarding how to discuss school violence and school shootings, please click on the links below. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 508-841-8400 if you have questions or comments on this or any other school topic.
新年快乐! As always, great job by the students and staff of the Massachusetts Beijing Chinese Language School in putting on their annual Spring Festival! Each year, students from educational institutions across Central Massachusetts, including Shrewsbury Public Schools, perform a variety of dances, songs, and poems in celebration of Chinese New Year. One of my favorite events each year! ... See MoreSee Less