Yesterday’s tragic events at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas have shocked and saddened us. Our hearts are with this school’s community – their students, families and educators.
I want to reassure you that scholar and staff safety continues to be our greatest priority at Osseo Area Schools. An enormous amount of work has been put into our school safety plans and the training on those plans. Our risk management team stays updated on industry best practices and partners with local law enforcement officials and first responders in this work.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you or your scholar(s) are in need of support. Site administrators, school counselors, school psychologists and social workers are all available to help. Included in this message are also some tips from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The Minnesota Department of Education has similar resources available on their website.
Please continue to encourage your scholar(s) to speak up if they see or hear anything. Scholars can do this by reaching out to a trusted adult at school or submitting an anonymous tip on the Speak Up tip line.
Please keep Robb Elementary School in your thoughts during this very difficult time.
The following tips from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) are helpful for both parents/caregivers and educators:
Reassure children that they are safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
Create time to listen and be available to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children, in particular, may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
- Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. If they’re afraid about their safety in school buildings, give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
- Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done to keep them safe. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools and communities.
- Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of a mental health professional right away if you are at all concerned.
Limit media exposure. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Monitor what kids are viewing online and how they are consuming information about the event through social media. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.