The shooting that left 26 people dead in Newtown, Connecticut last week was on the minds of many as a new school week got underway Monday in Kuna.
The tragedy—six adults and 20 children gunned down inside Sandy Hook Elementary—was a topic for discussion among many Kuna School District teachers, staff and administrators, as well as many of the students who came to school Monday.
District-wide, attendance was slightly lower than normal.
“We do have a few parents who decided not to send their kids today,” said KSD Superintendent Jay Hummel, noting he understood why Kuna parents, like many others across the country, were so concerned. “The shooting in Connecticut is giving everyone pause; it’s a horrible tragedy, and it’s very hard to comprehend how something like this could happen, and happen in a very conservative, safe community much like our own.”
IT COULD HAPPEN ANYWHERE
In light of the shooting that left many reeling in disbelief, horror, fear and anger, Hummel said district administrators were planning to hammer out a school-by-school security analysis, including a review of each building’s existing security features and emergency plans.
Once that’s finished, he said, needs will be prioritized, as some district school buildings—those that are older and not self-contained, for example—pose a more significant security risk than others.
“We’ll be reviewing everything with our local police,” Hummel said. “They are the experts in safety and security, and they may see things we don’t.”
After word of the shooting broke Friday morning, Kuna City Police initiated immediate contact with district officials, Hummel said, and, for the remainder of the day, deputies stepped up patrols around all ten district schools to keep an eye on things and also make a strong police presence known.
In a letter posted to the KSD website, Hummel said, in part, that he was not surprised to hear of Newtown educators who did whatever they had to do, even if it meant loss of their own life, to keep children safe.
“My colleagues would do the same,” he wrote in the letter, and reiterated later when he spoke with the Kuna Melba News. “I know everyone of them would get in front of those kids to protect them in the same way. Absolutely. There’s an overriding responsibility we feel for the kids who are here, and in a crisis you see an immediate, instinctive reaction. It’s parental.”
TALKING ABOUT IT
At the elementary level, at least, teachers were not presenting the subject of the Sandy Hook shooting for discussion, said KSD Assistant Superintendent Wendy Johnson, but rather engaging in a more of a reactionary mode.
‘In some cases it is coming up in classes,” Johnson said. “Some of the kids feel scared and they need to talk about it and process it, and when it does come up, our teachers know how to guide them through it in a way that is age-appropriate.”
The schools also have counselors, social workers and school psychologists available for students who are having difficulty with the topic, and a list of resources aimed at helping parents talk to kids about difficult subjects is available on the district website at kunaschools.org
LOOKING BEYOND LOCKED DOORS AND SAFETY DRILLS
At the most basic level, Johnson said, it’s important to make sure buildings are secure and staff is trained and prepared to respond in an emergency situation.
But she also noted that the over-reaching issue of accessible mental health care also needs to be addressed.
“The State of Idaho, especially, is lacking in the mental health resources we have available,” she said, noting it’s not uncommon for parents to ask the school district for help when a child is struggling at home. “We can offer support, but if people are reaching out for help and have no idea where to go or what to do, they need more than that. We need to be able to connect people with outside resources where they can get the care they want and need for that child—but it’s very difficult to do that because resources are so limited.”
Although Melba Superintendent Andrew Grover was not immediately available for comment, a letter posted on the district’s website read, in part: “Our hearts ache for the students, parents, teachers, and staff affected by this atrocity. We stand by them in support as they endeavor to pick up the pieces and heal their school and community…To all those in Newtown we say, “Your loss is our loss, your pain is our pain. They will not be forgotten.”