METAIRIE, La. - The elementary school shooting in Connecticut has taken its toll on those all across the country.
School officials in Jefferson Parish are taking extra steps to focus on safety procedures and help parents and students deal with and understand the tragedy.
On Friday afternoon, officials initiated the crisis management plan as soon as they heard of the incident.
"We began the process of developing a plan that would deal with our parents' reaction, as well as our employees' reaction, and how we could prepare today [Monday] for the opening of school so that there's a very safe and secure environment, and that we have people available to answer parents' questions, such as psychologists and counselors," said James Meza, the Jefferson Parish school superintendent.
Officials have done a number of things in order to a copy cat incident, Meza said.
Principals reviewed their physical security manuals before Monday, he said.
There will be a single entry point for all schools, which is standard procedure.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office will be on additional patrols and will be communicating with school officials throughout the day.
The teachers and parents must work together in order to decide how to address the issue with students.
"We sent a letter to parents this morning [Monday] and to all our teachers. In the letter to parents, we want to assure them that all schools are safe, and also that we have given them some tips on how to deal with such traumatic situations. Our teachers also will be advised. And, of course, we'll always have on-call our psychologists to work with both groups," Meza said.
Trained social workers, psychologists and translators will be available on the parent/employee assistance hotline. The number is 504-349-8999, and it is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Jefferson Parish Public School System provided a list of tips for talking to children about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting:
- If your child asks questions about the incident, give a simple, honest, age- appropriate answer. You don't have to go into details about it.
- Limit exposure to media about the incident. It can trigger fears and anxiety.
- Listen and observe your child for any emotional signs of distress such as anger, anxiety, or depression. The emotional signs can also show up as physical symptoms such as stomachaches, headaches, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
- Try to stick to a normal routine. Children need and want structure to feel safe and protected.
- Monitor your own stress level and seek support and help for yourself if you need it. Children get their emotional cues from their parents.
- Reassure children that they are safe and this incident was a rare occurrence.
- Let children know that it is okay to feel upset for a while. Younger children can draw to express their feelings and older ones can journal to write their feelings down. Children grieve in different ways so don't force them to share. Just be a good listener!
- Be especially sensitive if your child has had a recent death in the family or some kind of trauma. This incident may bring up the personal grief again.
- Try to spend some extra quality time with your children. Tell them you love them and give them extra hugs so they feel your presence and know you are there for them.