The tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut causes us to come together again as a family and think about our ‘future leaders’. As principal, reflection on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School causes me to think of my 680 plus students as well as my school age family members with regards to making sure they don’t lose faith in individuals who guide and protect them daily. I will do my best to continue to stress and build their confidence in knowing that the adults at Pillow Elementary School still maintain the pledge of keeping them safe and providing of positive educational experiences.
Today will be a regular school day for Pillow Elementary students. We will not initiate conversations with your children about the tragedy. If students bring up the shootings, we will address their questions and concerns briefly and directly. Teachers will receive guidance from our counselors as to addressing students’ concerns in general terms. Also our counselors or administrators will be available as needed to assist with individuals who need an opportunity to talk and understand this misfortune. The main focus for today is for students to have a normal school day.
Reassure your child or teen that he or she is safe, and that you are also okay by doing the following (taken from the AISD webpage):
· Maintain routines.
· Turn the television off or allow your child to only watch shows that aren’t covering the incident. (Adolescents may need to watch because, like adults, they have a need to know. Keep it to a minimum – no more than a half-hour and be sure to discuss what your child saw and heard by asking questions and listen carefully to responses and opinions.)
· Do not criticize any regressive behaviors, such as a child’s need for comfort food. Allow your child to be sad or afraid. Reassure your child that you will be there to take care of them. Tell your child that the sadness, hurt, or fear that may be felt now will change in time.
· Encourage your child to exercise some sense of control for the next few days by letting them make decisions about what they want to eat and wear.
· Spend time together. This means together, not you in one part of the house while your child is in another part of the house.
· Encourage your child to engage in physical activities as well as activities that let them feel better.
· Explain that it is normal to feel sad or worried but the United States is a strong country and officials are working hard to keep everyone safe.
· When needed, help separate fact from fiction. Fiction tends to escalate one’s fears.
· Do not speculate or exaggerate.
I realize you have been listening to the development of this tragedy and wondering about Pillow’s response and Austin ISD’s response. Your concern for the employment of AISD’s Safety Policy and Pillow’s Safety Policy for our school and the practice of monthly drills, can be reduced and noted as a common practice at Pillow Elementary. We commit to a total school evacuation i.e. a fire, bomb, or terroristic threat drill and/or practice a tornado or “secure in place” for an intruder drill each month. Following the drills the administrative team evaluates the timeliness of the drill and whether or not appropriate procedures were witnessed. More than not the common practice after the drill is commending the students on their serious demeanor during the drill. However, times have warranted for a teachable moment to reiterate expectations and the serious nature of the drill(s) as well as check for understanding of the drill(s).
Another enforced practice on Pillow’s campus is the signing in of Visitors/Mentors/Non-AISD faculty and students. I know we sometimes get in a rush and want to walk pass the office and politely wave. I’m glad you visit us whether it is for eating lunch or assisting teachers. However the system we have in place to account for visitors warrants signing in at the office and wearing a Pillow/Visitor’s badge. Thank you for following the rules.
As we continue to keep the welfare of our children in mind, be observant of their demeanor in these last few days of school. Let’s keep the needs of the Pillow family in mind as we look toward restful and memorable times with family.
Let me reiterate the Pillow pledge.
We aim to keep your children safe and provide for positive educational experiences at Dorinda Pillow Elementary School.
If you have any concerns or questions, please email or call me directly.