In light of the tragic school shooting that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut earlier this week, the Turlock Unified School District has sent out a message to all parents regarding how to talk with their students regarding school safety.
The message is as follows:
The Turlock Unified School District is deeply saddened by the school shooting in Connecticut. High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.
1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very 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.
2. Make time 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 while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
3. 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. 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 at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
• 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.
4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
5. 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 if you are at all concerned.
6. Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. 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.
7. 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.
Safety and emergency preparedness is very important in Turlock Unified School District. Student and staff safety are a paramount concern in the Turlock Unified School District. All schools in the Turlock Unified School District have Comprehensive School Safety Plans and site Emergency Safety Plans. These plans include: Crisis Response Plans and Teams, Emergency Procedures for fire, earthquake, lockdown, bomb threat, and Emergency Drill and Training Schedules. The emergency plans are reviewed and updated annually by the school sites and approved by the Board of Trustees. Each site conducts drills each year to review the procedures and practices.
I have been in contact with Turlock Police Chief Jackson and we, together, will be emphazing the city and school safety plans we have in place to all of our administrators. I have attached the Turlock Unified School District’s outline of safety plan procedures. Please know that the safety of students and staff of Turlock Unified School District is in the forefront of our plans.
Very truly yours,
Dr. Sonny H. Da Marto,
To view the message in Spanish, visit http://turlockusd-ca.schoolloop.com/file/1229222804739/1281763434885/5468412261869092521.pdf.
Also, to review Turlock Unified School District’s safety procedures, visit