WCSD Sends Letter to Parents, Gives Discussion Tips
From the Washoe County School District:
Dear WCSD Students, Parents, Families, and Guardians,
The tragic incident at Sparks Middle School on Monday has shocked and shaken all of us. We know we will be feeling many emotions as we struggle to understand and cope with this incident. We will all have questions and want answers, some that we may never know. Our hearts, prayers, and sympathies are with everyone impacted by this horrific act of violence. Despite all of these emotions and the loss we are feeling, we will heal together through the support, love, and passion we have as a school community.
It is difficult to imagine something of this nature happening in our own community and impacting us so closely. Whether your children attend Sparks Middle or another school, the healing process is going to take some time. We encourage anyone who needs support – whether it is you or your children – to share your thoughts and feelings. We will be making every resource available to you to help us get through this time. In addition to support through the school district, our community provides valuable resources to help you and your family through this time. Here are several contact numbers for you: „h Crisis Call Center: 784-8090 „h Children's Cabinet: 856-6200 „h Solace Tree: 324-7723 „h Northern NV Mental Health Services: 688-2001
We know conversations about violence, especially incidents involving schools, can be very difficult to have with your children. I want to share a list of suggestions from the National Association of School Psychologists about what parents can do in times of crisis such as these:
1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. a. Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day. b. Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools. c. Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make schools safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they can go if they feel threatened or at risk.
5. Observe children's emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child's level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or who have special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of a mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
6. Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
7. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities, but don't push them if they seem overwhelmed.
In addition to taking time individually to mourn, our community is coming together to show support for all those impacted during the incident.
On Friday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m., our community will join together for a candlelight vigil to honor Michael Landsberry, the heroic math teacher who lost his life in the shooting, and to offer all Sparks Middle School students, staff, and families support. The vigil will take place at the peninsula on the west side of the Sparks Marina. The public is invited to attend. The brief ceremony will offer a chance for community healing and will include speakers representing the City of Sparks, the Washoe County School District, and the State of Nevada. Beginning around sunset, participants will have the opportunity to light candles and set them afloat.
The community also is invited to join a Community Prayer Night on Thursday, Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sparks Nazarene Church at 2200 El Rancho Drive. It will be a multi-faith event led by student ministries from the community. For more information on the Community Prayer Night, please contact Sparks Nazarene Church at 775-358-4066.
SMS Compassion Fund
We've received a lot of questions from parents and the community about how they can make a donation to the individuals so deeply impacted by this event. The Community Foundation of Western Nevada has established a fund to provide financial support to the victims, students, staff, families, and Sparks Middle School in the wake of yesterday's shooting. The Sparks Middle School (SMS) Compassion Fund is accepting tax-deductible monetary donations.
For more information, call the Community Foundation of Western Nevada at 775-333-5499. The foundation website is located at www.nevadafund.org. Donations may be mailed to: Community Foundation of Western Nevada 1885 South Arlington Avenue, Suite 103 Reno, NV 89509 Please reference "SMS Compassion Fund"
The outpouring of support we have received has been overwhelming. Since Monday morning, our community has reached out to provide support and assistance to our students, families, staff, and the school district. We are so appreciative of all that the community has provided, from resources and donations to child care and emotional support. We are grateful for the united response of all local law enforcement agencies, including our school police officers. It's inspiring to see everyone come together. While our local community has truly pulled together, we've also felt the support from the entire country. We've received cards, phone calls, e-mails, and an incredible response on social media.
As we continue this healing process, we encourage everybody to discuss their feelings. Through support and unity, we will find the strength to get through this tragedy together.