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Superintendent Chang Addresses Florida School Shooting
February 15, 2018
Dear Boston Public Schools Community:
We are all deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy that took place yesterday at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Our hearts go out to all of the students, families and staff devastated by this senseless act of violence.
We understand that the news of this terrible event may trigger strong emotions among our own students. As a result, many of our young people will turn to us for answers. The National Association of School Psychologists has provided helpful tips on how to talk with children about the challenging topic of violence. Here are some of its suggestions:
- Reassure children that they are 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.
- Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient; children and teenagers do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
As a BPS community, we are committed to ensuring safe and welcoming schools for all students. Our Office of Social Emotional Learning and Wellness has a number of supports available to respond to school-based needs:
- A response team from the BPS Behavioral Health Services Department is available to support any student, family member or staff member who is having difficulty at this time. To seek assistance, please speak to a school staff member or call (617) 635-9676.
- BPS is offering our school communities training in spotting the warning signs of violence through our partnership with the Sandy Hook Promise, which works with districts across the country to combat social isolation among students as a way to reduce gun school gun violence. As part of that effort, BPS schools have participated in “Start With Hello Week,” an initiative that helps students connect with each other to build a more inclusive school environment.
- BPS provides Safe and Welcoming Schools Specialists to help schools review their culture in order to to foster a more welcoming climate for all community members. To contact a specialist, please call (617) 635-8123.
BPS, the Boston Police Department, and the City of Boston continue to collaborate to make our schools safer. Two years ago, we created the position of Executive Director of Safety Services to enhance safety protocols, better identify potential threats, and make our school buildings more secure. For the past three years, the Boston Police Department has conducted active-shooter presentations with BPS school staff on an ongoing basis, and all of our schools are required to conduct “safe mode/internal threat drills” at least twice a year.
The safety, health and wellness of our students is a top priority of the Boston Public Schools. We strive to ensure our schools provide an environment where students feel safe and welcome each and every day.
Tommy Chang, Ed.D.