Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed sent a letter home to district parents on Tuesday, November 19, in advance of an anticipated release of an investigatory report on the shootings of 12/14 at Sandy Hook School.
The report is expected to be released on Monday, November 25, according to notifications received by local officials. Further details on the report are available here.
The following is the letter and “Tips for Families on Addressing the Anniversary,” as sent home to parents on Tuesday, November 19, by Dr Reed.
I’ve been informed and the media has widely reported that the long awaited report pertaining to the tragedy at Sandy Hook School will be made public this coming Monday. l wanted you to have time to think about steps you could choose to take to limit media exposure. l expect this release will be very widely covered in the print media, radio, television and on the internet. Depending upon the age of your child or children, I think it is advisable to carefully consider what you want them to see, hear or read.
I encourage you to communicate directly with your child’s school counselor', school psychologist, school social worker, or school administrator if you have any concerns about your child’s emotional health in the coming weeks. In addition you may also call David Jacob, Recovery Project Director, at 203-426-7622.
We all understand that for the children who were directly affected by this tragedy the release of the report and the upcoming anniversary can carry a very personal meaning. We enclosed some information adopted from the National Trauma Stress Network given to me by Dr. Melissa Biyrner, Director of Terrorism and Disaster Programs For the National Center for Child Trauma at UCLA, Julie Haggard, Director of Pupil Services, and David Jacob. You may find it helpful.
Tips for Families 0n Addressing the Anniversary
As we move closer to the anniversary, we wanted to acknowledge how this may be another challenging time for your family, as anniversaries can create renewed feelings of distress and increased worries about something similar happening again. We can also anticipate increased media attention. The district has been working with the police department, with the district’s security committee, and the town to address these concerns. If you have any worries or hear any rumors, please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s school administrator, central office, security, or the police.
What can I look for in my children?
Children may react to the anniversary in a variety of ways, depending upon their age, developmental level, and their previous experience with trauma and loss. Some children may become agitated, anxious, withdrawn, or even aggressive. School-age children can demonstrate very specific new fears and avoidant behavior related to what they now perceive as unsafe/risky situations. Adolescents may be more reactive to rumors and respond with more reckless, acting out behaviors. For some, it may evoke a range of personal feelings of loss.
Who might need additional support?
Those children who were directly affected by this tragedy, the anniversary carries very personal meaning Children who have a history of trauma, violence, or sudden loss my require acknowledgement of their own personal tragedies
Children who tend to be anxious may be more reactive to information about the anniversary, be more susceptible to rumors and misconceptions, and have a harder time being reassured.
How can you help?
Anticipate reminders related to the anniversary and help your children recognize and learn to cope with them. A child may not be fully aware of what he or she is remembering and may react with increased distress without knowing how or why the anniversary is triggering those feelings. By understanding children’s specific reminders, adults may be able to help them to react less strongly and cope more successfully.
Let children acknowledge the anniversary in their own way. Some children may express considerable interest, While others may choose to ignore the anniversary altogether. Don’t force children to participate in ceremonies or memorials, or overload them with information. Take your cue from your child. There is no one right reaction. However, parents should make themselves available to talk to children about their thoughts, fears and feelings if and when they are ready.
Be honest with children. It’s OK to share your own reactions and concerns. Kids learn by watching their parents. When grown-ups are holding back, they can usually tell. Some children will ask, “Could it happen again?” It’s best to answer such questions as honestly as possible. One approach is to tell children that lots of people are working very hard to make the school and our community safe. Point out the new procedures at school (e.g., police officers present at school, new sign-in procedures for visitors) to help them understand the efforts that are going on.
Share any concerns you may have about your children during this period of time with the teachers, recovery team, or school personnel so that they can offer additional reassurance and be alert for signs of distress.
Repeated exposure to media stories about the anniversary may heighten children’s anxiety and distress. Try to limit your child’s exposure to such stories.
Provide children with opportunities to make a positive difference in their daily lives and in their community. Taking constructive action is an antidote to fear and helplessness. Families, schools, and communities can use the anniversary as an occasion to strengthen ties and renew shared values. The town has committed to the idea of compassionate acts of kindness.
There is a great power in a community supporting and believing in the notion that each of us can make a difference and that it is our compassion and genuine caring for one another that connects us. Talk as a family as to what constructive acts you may want to commit to during this time and moving forward.
Don't forget to take care of yourself. Make sure you take good physical care of yourself, including eating well, sleeping well, and receiving proper medical care. Take time to reach out to other parents and provide support to one another. Most importantly, give yourself extra breaks during this time.