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Response to Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy

An important message for parents and staff: 

Dear Fife School District Community,

On behalf of Fife Public Schools, our hearts go out to the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and especially to the staff, students, and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. It’s difficult to comprehend the motivation for the horrific attack that took place this morning.

We have worked hard over the past few years to develop our building emergency preparedness plans. We have practiced and trained to respond with confidence. Our plans have been developed in coordination with our local police and fire departments, the county’s First Responder system, and the state department of Emergency Management. According to state law, schools must conduct at least one safety-related drill each month that school is in session.

Every school has a safety plan that outlines procedures for prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery in the event of a crisis. Please know that we take safety in our buildings very seriously. The well-being of our students is our top concern. In short, we have prepared extensively, but in light of this recent tragedy we will look into any lessons learned that might further strengthen our plans. The obvious and very difficult balance is the task of providing ultimate safety in our schools while providing adequate access to the community in a thriving public school setting.

Nevertheless, the random nature of a sudden mass shooting can make us feel very vulnerable, particularly when innocent, vulnerable children are targeted. As we try to cope with this reality, we can and must help our children cope. 

Our school counselors remind us that as caring adults we can make the difference between being overwhelmed by circumstances we cannot control and developing critical life-long emotional and coping skills.

Here are a few suggestions for helping to make students feel safe:

* Turn off or monitor the television. Endless news programs are likely to heighten anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and their personal reality.

* Maintain a normal routine.

* Stick to facts. Answer questions factually.

* Remember to filter what you say to a child. Avoid graphic details.

* Remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from their parents and adults.

* Be optimistic.

* Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.

* Take care of yourself. You are better able to help your students if you are coping well. If you are anxious or upset, your students are more likely to be so as well.

The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. We are vigilant in our efforts to keep our students and staff safe. We will, as we always do, review our crisis plans in light of this tragedy as well as reinforce school security and campus visitor procedures. As stated earlier in this message, we are already revisiting ways in which we can limit campus access in a reasonable fashion while ensuring that the school sites can function responsibly as a public entity.

It takes parents, students, staff, and community working together to keep our schools safe places to learn. If you ever have information about suspicious, illegal, or unsafe activity at school, please call your child’s school or contact us directly at the district office at 253-517-1000. You may do so anonymously if you wish.

Our school counselors and principals will be highly visible in the schools today and next week. If you have concerns about your child and would like the counselor to speak with him or her in private, please contact your child’s school office.

Today is a tragic day. Again, our thoughts and hearts go out to the students, staff, and families at Sandy Hook Elementary School.



Dr. Steve McCammon
Superintendent of Fife Public Schools