Resources In the Aftermath of Tragedy
It has been heartbreaking to hear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and their parents speak out about the recent shooting. I remember the shock of what unfolded in Columbine High School in 1999 and continue to grapple with the surreal circumstances of school shootings since then. The school community, teachers, staff, and I, as Head of School, take very seriously the health and welfare of our students, and to that end, share with you the safety precautions that are in place at Gillispie.
In terms of preparation, schoolwide endeavors, including fire, evacuation, earthquake, and lockdown drills, take place routinely throughout the year. During the onsite drills with students, we assemble on different parts of the campus, use different exits, or practice shelter-in-place procedures. We also perform drills with faculty and staff during some of our in-service days.
The campus is locked during the school day, with access monitored and limited to the Girard entrance, where an electronic check-in system allows us to know who is on campus, as well as screens for certain types of criminal convictions. In addition, we have had several experts visit campus to help assess emergency procedures as well as the layout of the campus. Their comments have led to upgrades in security camera systems and periphery fencing, which we continue to evaluate and improve upon.
One of the greatest challenges as a parent is to think about how to effectively communicate with your children about these issues. Some of our students are too young to understand the current situation, while the older students may get bits and pieces, which they try to make sense of. While there is no right answer, I offer the following resources from National Association of Independent Schools to help you navigate these conversations:
- Talking to Children About Tragedies (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Helping Kids After a Shooting (American School Counselor Association)
- Explaining the News to Our Kids (Common Sense Media)
- Helping Children Cope with Frightening News (Child Mind Institute)
- Helping Children Cope with Terrorism – Tips for Families and Educators (National Association of School Psychologists)
- How To Talk With Kids About Terrible Things (npr.org)
Though life never offers a 100% guarantee, please know that we take our responsibility for your children’s safety as our foremost concern. Finally, during these highly charged times, it is important that in addition to checking on how our children are feeling, we ourselves are taking actions that are healthy and bring us a sense of purpose.
About Gillispie School: We are an independent toddler through Grade 6 school in La Jolla, CA. We believe that learning is a journey in which children are active participants. Our students partner with teachers to further their academic, creative, and social growth, and we balance a child-centered approach that does not rush childhood with well-researched academic programs that demand higher-level thinking. Click here to learn more about our school.