Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 21 December 2012 00:00
News of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, CT, struck fear in parents around the world. Although 90 miles away from the tragedy, local schools, including those in the Levittown and Island Trees school districts, checked and rechecked their safety procedures and policies.
“Over the weekend, I was in contact with our central administration team, principals, psychologists and social workers regarding strategies on how to best deal with this traumatic event,” said Levittown Schools Superintendent Dr. James Grossane in a statement. “Today, Monday, Dec. 17, all building principals reviewed the district safety plan and procedures with staff. This annually updated plan was developed in the aftermath of previous national tragedies with input from staff, community and law enforcement.
Speaking with children about the tragedy and helping them cope with their fears is essential, said Dr. Grossane, who pointed out that the schools are following the American Psychological Association’s guidelines on how to counsel the varying age groups of students. No specific lessons or assemblies were held to discuss the events, said the superintendent, and if students had questions, they were answered accordingly. Those needing further assistance were seen by support staff.
“The district’s assistant superintendents and I met with each principal in their buildings today to review specific aspects of the district safety plan,” he said. “The executive planning committee for the district safety plan will meet this week to review any input from the building principals and administration as well as any additional information that we may receive from law enforcement on ways to modify our safety plan.”
Changes to the plan will be made as needed.
Similarly, Island Trees School Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy told the Levittown Tribune, “The Island Trees School District made some immediate school security changes. First, we added an extra security guard to our elementary campus. In the past, our two elementary schools shared one campus guard. Now we’ll have a guard for each building on the elementary campus. In addition, we have directed the principals to lock all of our perimeter doors, including main entrances, during school hours. The main entrance doors will be monitored and opened manually by school staff members.”
Over the next few months, the district will assess its security procedures and policies, he said.
“We will continue to practice our lock-out and lock-down security drills, so that staff and students know what to do in case of an emergency,” said Murphy.
The Island Trees School District also responded early on Dec. 15 in a Connect-Ed message from Dr. Arlene Genden Sage, assistant superintendent for special education, with suggestions for helping children understand what happened, and solutions for coping with the emotions and anxieties. The website of the National Association of School Psychologists has many parental resources at http://www.nasponline.org/.
As in Levittown, Island Trees school psychologists, guidance counselors, and school social workers are available for any further assistance.
In addition to parents looking for reassurance from their own school district, they also look toward local officials for proactive measures and policies. Senator Kemp Hannon voiced his commitment to “taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of our school children, and all school faculty, staff and employees, and to curtail gun violence.”
Mental illness is another area of focus, said Hannon. “I stand with my colleagues in the legislature and the governor to seek answers and remedies so that a tragedy like Newtown, CT, is never repeated.”
Assemblyman David McDonough told Levittown Tribune, “While New York State has some strong gun laws, we call upon the federal government to react to this by passing legislation to make it much more difficult for people to obtain assault weapons that have been used in these incidents we have seen too much of in the recent past.”