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Byram Hills Schools Outline Steps To Make Kids Feel Safe

Superintendent Bill Donohue wrote to parents outlining steps the Byram Hills Central School District is taking in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings.
Superintendent Bill Donohue wrote to parents outlining steps the Byram Hills Central School District is taking in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. Photo Credit: Dan Curtis

ARMONK, N.Y. ? The Byram Hills Central School District has a plan in place to help students in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut, a letter to parents posted to the district website said.

Superintendent Bill Donohue's message addressed how the district plans to handle the challenges schools face after the killing of 20 pupils and six adults Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The plan focuses on three key steps: talking to students to help them deal emotionally with the tragedy, managing their return to school and reviewing the district's emergency procedures.

School officials in the Byram Hills district want to make sure both students and parents know their schools are safe. In the note, Donohue included e-mail addresses for each of the district heads along with his own e-mail to show parents they have an outlet for their concerns.

The following is the superintendent's message posted on the district website:

As I watch the news and talk to friends I find my own anxiety raising, and I am sure it is the same for many of you. I'd like to briefly review three things that I think might be helpful to you this weekend: talking to children; the children's return to school; and our emergency procedures review.

1. Talking to children: There is a lot of good advice readily available, both in the popular media and from specialized sources, and I suspect you have already read some. The following is from the Child Mind Institute:

Give children a chance to voice their fears and answer their questions honestly and patiently. These may seem like small things, but they're very important for kids struggling to process a disturbing experience or terrifying disruption in their lives.

Stay calm. This situation is literally a nightmare for parents. Kids don’t need you to telegraph your fears on to them. Turn the TV off when young children are present. Repeated news reports can make kids anxious.

Be direct but also developmentally appropriate in your conversations. And remember, it is always a series of conversations, not a single sit-down. Expect a child to come back again and again with questions as they build a narrative about what happened; with your help it can be a healthy one, even if it is a very difficult subject. Make kids feel safe with love and continued routines. There is perhaps nothing more damaging to a child’s development than a feeling that the world is, on balance, a negative place. Security gives children confidence at the same time that it lets them be kids while they need to be.

Finally, it's important to keep an eye on kids and be alert to signs that they might not be recovering in a healthy way — changes in their patterns of sleep and eating, unusual irritability or trouble focusing, obsessive or pervasive worry.

Click here for the Child Mind Institute article.

2. Return to school: our principals, teachers, counselors and psychologists will be very mindful on Monday that returning to school may be difficult for some children. The principals have already been in touch with their faculties and response teams. The schools will focus on creating a normal atmosphere and staff will be watching for children who don't seem themselves. They will be ready to refer them to our pupil personnel teams for counseling. If you feel your child will need special attention, I suggest sending a brief email to the principal this weekend, as Monday morning will be very busy and phone calls may not be efficient.

Coman Hill:




Mine is . (You should know that responses to these mass email messages do not go directly back to me, though I will get them eventually and respond.)

3. Procedures: Part of our own Emergency Plan is to review procedures after any event like this. We will do so again of course, and we will particularly focus on issues of locking access to our buildings at all times. This review will begin before the holiday break and will consider both immediate and future remedies. We will also consult with a security company that we use for their input.

As ever, we want to be partners with you in keeping your children safe and well-cared-for in every respect.

Thank you,

Bill Donohue


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