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Spokane school officials offer trauma tips

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 14, 2012, 2:24 p.m.

After a traumatic event such as the school shooting today in Connecticut, parents should limit their children’s exposure to news coverage because some children believe the event is reoccurring every time they see the footage.

That is among the tips Franklin Elementary School in Spokane sent home to parents Friday in the wake of the shooting that left 20 children and seven adults dead, including the alleged gunman.

Spokane School officials also sent a district-wide letter to staff members laying out the security measures the district has in place. They include over 1,000 security cameras, 12 specially commissioned police officers and a new parental notification system.

“District-wide, our practice is to create a single point of entry to each to each school that directs visitors to the office. Office staff keeps a close eye on people entering the building,” Superintendent Shelley Redinger said in the letter.

The district also has three crisis drills per year at each school site and six fire drills. Staff are trained to lock down when there is an outside threat and they receive regular training. The district also works closely with police and fire departments and expressed gratitude toward the “extra coverage” provided to the schools today.

But when tragedy strikes, parents have the daunting job of explaining the situation to their young children. Administrators at Franklin elementary offered a letter with these tips on how parents can explain the tragedy to children:

  • Talk to your children and listen to their concerns. Reassure them that parents, teachers and police officers are working to keep them safe.
  • Encourage children to express themselves. Elementary school children use a combination of play and talking to express themselves while adolescents are more like to communicate feelings and fears verbally. Adults should help children put their fears into proportion to the real risk.
  • Limit exposure to news coverage. Research has shown some young children believe the events are reoccurring every time they see a television replay of the footage.
  • Know the warning signs. Children are resilient and will return to normal activities quickly, but parents should be alert to signs of anxiety. That can include a change in school performance, changes in relationships with peers and teachers, excessive worry, sleeplessness, nightmares, headaches or stomachaches, or loss of interest in activities. Also remember children have different reactions to trauma.

All Spokane schools have safety committees that work with the district to minimize risk in the building. At Franklin, that committee will meet after winter break to revisit the policies and procedures, the letter said. The children practice drills throughout the year so they are ready in case of emergency, the letter said.

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