Wellesley schools respond to Newtown, Conn., tragedy

David Lussier, superintendent of Wellesley Public Schools, issued the following memo to parents/guardians of Wellesley students as well as Wellesley school staff Friday night regarding the Newtown, Conn., shootings:

Dear Parents and Staff,

I am reaching out to you in light of the tragedy that occurred today in Newtown, Connecticut.  The lives lost would be terrible in any situation.  The fact that this occurred in a school building, where we assume our children and staff will be safe, makes today’s news all the more difficult to comprehend.

Nothing we can say is likely to explain what happened today and yet we need to be prepared to support our children, who may have questions and/or feel vulnerable as they process this news and observe our reaction as adults.  With this in mind, I am sharing resources that you may find helpful in talking with our children.  The first is a set of (attached) suggestions developed by Dr. Rob Evans and Dr. Mark Kline at The Human Relations Service (HRS) here in Wellesley.  Rob and Mark have worked with our community for a number of years and have a great deal of experience helping children and adults work through difficult events.  If you have any questions please contact HRS at 781-235-4950.

I also encourage you to visit the following links from the National Association of School Psychologists, which offer excellent tips for parents and teachers on helping children cope with tragedies:  http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx

http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf

As parents and staff within our community, I am sure today’s events have raised questions about the safety standards within the Wellesley Public Schools.  Through our facilities improvement work this year, we have been exploring ways we can bolster the safety of our schools by employing technology solutions that would allow us, for example, to better monitor and control door entry.  I have also asked our principals to review their building safety protocols with staff to ensure that everyone is familiar with these plans.   Finally, we are working with the Wellesley Police Department to review our safety protocols and to preview other models that have emerged nationally. The bottom line is that we are committed to ensuring the safety of all children and staff at our schools and will continue to improve our ability to do so.

While I write to you this evening as your superintendent, my first reaction to today’s news was as a parent, imagining the grief of the families in Connecticut, and wanting to race to my own children and gather them up in a protective embrace.  Tonight, as we gather in our homes, let us each embrace our loved ones a little tighter as we send our thoughts and prayers to the grieving families in Newtown.

David Lussier

Superintendent of Schools

 

Separately, Principal Andrew Keough issued a note to parents/guardians over the weekend:

Dear Wellesley High School Community,

I write to you with the same frustration and sadness most of you are experiencing in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. Tragedies like these strike at the heart and leave us wondering how anyone can be driven to commit such vicious acts of cruelty.    I have few answers in this regard, but do want to assure you that we are continuously on alert for situations of this nature at Wellesley High School.

We do in fact have a documented plan for an Active Armed Assailant in the high school, but do not openly share it, recognizing that most assailants in the history of high school shootings have also been students at the school. Our plan has been developed by our Crisis Response Team, under the supervision of the Wellesley Police Department, and is reviewed annually. Our faculty and staff are well versed in our crisis protocols and have practiced our lock down procedures in the past. We will practice them again in the very near future. In the interim, I will be reviewing the protocols again with the staff before school on Monday.
Ultimately however, the best defense is a good offense. Our buildings must always be secure and we will again be reviewing our security measures upon our return to school on Monday. Equally as important is that we know each and every one of our students well and ensure that they not become isolated or detached in our school. The Enrichment and Recreation Program (ERP) and the institution of our new advisory program this year are clear examples of how we connect with each and every Wellesley High School student. We want to know them well in the hopes of striking at and eliminating the root of what fuels these awful attacks, anger, hatred, and isolation.

We will continue in our efforts and welcome your input.

Please join us in keeping the young victims of last weeks shooting, and the educators who defended them in your thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely, Andrew W. Keough, Ed. D.

RELATED: Wellesley officials attend program on countering school attacks

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