Like other school districts across the country, the Park City School District is reinforcing its stance on safety and student well-being to quell concerns from parents following the massacre in Newtown, Conn. where 27 died, including 20 children, after a gunman attacked students and teachers. On Monday, counselors were made available to Park City students in response to last week's shooting and a statement was released to the community from the school district.
" We would like to suggest the following guidelines when talking with your children about this incident," the statement read. "First and foremost let them know that they are safe. It is our recommendation that you limit or avoid access to media coverage especially in the elementary grades. "Children will have a variety of emotional responses related to this incident. It is recommended that you take care of yourself and manage your own anxiety, do not talk about the event in front of young children and to filter your media resources."
Ben Springer, the Park City School District Psychologist, said providing counselor services following events like the shooting are more important now than ever.
"Every time there is a local or international event like this one, we follow up," he said, "We offer intervention from the high school all way to elementary school counselors."
Teachers in the district have already been advised by a crisis team on how to manage student reactions in the classroom, according to the statement released by school district administrators.
"Our goal is to limit access to and discussion of media images that will cause undue stress," the release continued. "Students will be reassured that each school in our district has a detailed safety plan in place to keep their school safe."
Springer said common symptoms in dealing with national tragedies such as the shooting in Connecticut include anxiety and a sense of helplessness, but that it is important parents talk to their children.
A predictable routine and, in some cases, a plan of action are useful ways to help children cope. Whether it is as simple a gesture as saying a prayer for the families or contacting agencies to help the families more directly, providing an outlet or course of action may also help ease anxieties, Springer said.
"It is important to validate these feelings," he said, "to let them know that they are not overreacting. It may be shock, disgust, fear or anxiety, but getting into routine and not minimizing feelings are both helpful coping mechanisms."
"We have well-trained people at the schools," Springer added, "and this is a good time to access those resources if necessary."
The community is invited to a candlelight vigil will be held at the Park City High School on Thursday, Dec. 20 from 6 to 6:30 p.m. in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.