The following letter was sent to parents and guardians of children in the West Hempstead School District by Superintendent John Hogan on Dec. 15:
“On behalf of all of us in West Hempstead, our hearts, prayers and concern go out to our neighbors in Newtown, Connecticut and especially to the parents and families who have suffered an unspeakable tragedy. Since hearing the news yesterday, I have been trying to comprehend how such an action could be taken against innocent children and adults who were simply engaged in the joyful process of learning. There is no comprehension to be found and no words that can ease the pain.
“As the father of two daughters, I know that I send them off each day with a prayer and the expectation that throughout the day they will be safe in their schools and in the local pharmacy where they both work. I do not expect that tragedy will come to visit them or that I will not see them again in the evening. As parents, we all have that expectation.
“As your superintendent, I believe that each of your children are my children, and I want them to be safe. I know that all the administrators and teachers in West Hempstead feel exactly the same way.
“Please know that while we have security measures in place in each building, including: adults at the doors, digital key pads, cameras and the like, we will again review all our plans and procedures. The health and safety of all in our school district has been and will continue to be our first priority. In the aftermath of yesterday’s tragedy, I directed the Principals to review their school’s emergency management plan. On Monday, as part of my regularly scheduled monthly meeting with the principals, we will review our security plans and procedures together.
“Sadly, the last fourteen years have shown us that schools are sometimes targeted. The idea that “it can’t happen here” is naïve and foolish. We will continue to do our best to be as prepared as possible for any emergency situation that may arise.
“This is a time for all of us to be very aware of our children and their reaction to the tragedy in Newtown. The following information may be helpful to you.
How to talk with your children about what happened in Newtown, CT.
The most important thing that any parent can do is to remind the child that they’re safe, that they’re loved, and that they are supported. Children, like many of us, will instinctively ask “Why?”
It is very important not to focus on trying to answer the “why”, but to listen to our children’s feelings, to bring them back to how they are feeling and to what we can do to help them feel better.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists, parents can use the following tips to talk to children about tragic events:
· Be reassuring.
· Be a good listener and observer.
· Monitor your children’s access to news reports.
· Emphasize people’s resiliency.
· Highlight people’s compassion and humanity.
· Maintain as much continuity and normalcy as possible.
· Spend family time.
· Do something positive with your children to help others in need.
· Ask for help if you or your children need it.
Please contact your school’s counselor if you feel your child is in need of additional assistance or if you would like a list of additional community mental health resources. The following signs may indicate that your child is having difficulty, but with time the signs of stress should decrease. You may want to watch for some signs of stress in your child, such as:
· Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
· Marked changes in usual ways of behavior, including decline in school productivity and mood changes
· Physical symptoms
Superintendent Hogan provided his phone number and the numbers of district school principals.