Helping Students Deal With Tragedy

Post date: Dec 18, 2012 4:35:32 AM

Dear Parents and Guardians,

It is with great sorrow that I prepare this communication. As all of you are probably already aware, last Friday our country suffered a terrible tragedy when a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and took the lives of 26 people. As a parent myself, and as a school official, I have found this incident to be very upsetting as many of you have as well. My heart goes out to the families and communities impacted by this event.

I have received several emails from parents with questions that one would expect after such an incident: How would Riverview handle such an incident? What will Riverview do to assure my student’s safety? What do I say to my child? I hope this communication provides answers to those questions, useful information, and to the best of my ability reassurance.

First and foremost, I want everyone to keep in mind that schools are statistically the safest location for your student to be. Be sure to reassure your student(s) of this if the topic of school safety arises. While it is highly unlikely that we will ever be in the same situation as Sandy Hook Elementary school, we still prepare for the improbable because we recognize that it is possible. We have in place specific protocols to ensure and maintain student safety. They are designed to strike the balance between providing a safe environment, while maintaining a welcoming, healthy environment. Most importantly, all doors are locked at 8:30 AM and the only access into the building is through the main office. Here, visitors are registered which allow us to know at all times who is in the building and for what reason(s).

We regularly revisit our crisis plans and make changes as necessary. In fact, our crisis plan was reviewed this past summer by an outside agency and the plan was found to be complete and detailed. Although recently reviewed, I will consult with local law enforcement and seek their input as to whether or not we need to revise our current crisis plan in response to the latest tragedy. As a parent and an administrator I want to assure you that we have the best procedures in place as recommended by law enforcement and state agencies, and I will strive to assure that we continue to have them in place.

During my tenure as a building principal, I attended a special training aimed at preventing school violence. I took away many valuable lessons from the training, but the most important idea was that the schools can prevent something like this from happening by fostering open communication with stakeholders and by providing an orderly and positive learning environment. In almost every incident there have been signs and “chatter” before it took place. If you or child ever hears anything, sees a facebook posting, a note, an email, or anything that would cause concern. Don’t keep it to yourself, refer it to authorities or to us at the school and we will refer it to the proper channel. We will communicate this message to all students in an age appropriate manner.

In regards to communicating with children, the school will follow the recommendations outlined by the National Association of School Psychologists. I have attached a copy of the document to this letter so that you can read it as well. Please be sure to review it as there are recommendations for what parents can do as well. A couple of highlights:

    • Adults should model calmness and control
    • Reassure the children that they are safe
    • Remind them that trustworthy people are in charge
    • Let them know it is normal to feel upset
    • Observe their emotional state (behaviors as well as words)
    • Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate

I want all of you to know that the staff at Riverview cares for your children very much, and we will do everything we can to protect your children as if they are our own. Thank you for taking the time to read this message and I wish you all a very happy holidays.


John Gendron

District Administrator, Silver Lake School District