Reynoldsburg News

Responding to Newtown

Schools seek aid from counselors, beef up security


Reynoldsburg school leaders implemented heightened security measures after the Dec. 14 mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and sent letters to parents with tips on how to talk to children about the tragedy.

News spread quickly among Reynoldsburg staff members last week when 20 elementary students and seven adults were shot to death in the small New England town by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who also killed himself.

Tricia Moore, director of partnerships and shared services for Reynoldsburg schools, said the elementary principals sent home letters to parents about increased security and guidance counselors talked to students, teachers and parents.

"Our building principals consulted staff members and tweaked their safety protocols, including keeping school doors locked at all times during the school day," she said. "We update our safety and security plans every year, in cooperation with the Reynoldsburg Police Department, and are actually in the middle of one of our more comprehensive reviews of the plans."

She said the district has not asked for a larger police presence in the schools, but does have two school resource officers at the high school.

"They are based in the high school, but we can always call on them if we need them elsewhere," she said.

In a Dec. 16 letter to staff members, school psychologist Joan Bellner said both parents and students may "express uncertainty or fears as a result of what happened in Newtown."

Bellner said the National Association of School Psychologists published a document called, "Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers" that advises parents to first "reassure children that they are safe" and that schools are safe.

"Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective and assist them in expressing those feelings appropriately," the document states.

It also advises parents to make time to talk to their children; keep explanations of the tragedy age-appropriate, review safety procedures at home and school, observe children's emotional states and maintain a normal routine.

It also suggests parents limit their children's television viewing of the event or commentary about the event.

"Adults also need to be mindful of the context of conversations they have with each other in front of children," the paper stated.

The document suggests parents should stress that "schools are safe places ... everyone plays a role in school safety ... sometimes people do bad things to hurt others and that violence is never a solution to personal problems."