The Oakland Unified School District has issued a letter to the school community, offering information to parents and teachers about how to talk to children about the school shooting that took place in Connecticut on December 14, and how to help children cope with anxiety and fear. The letter also addresses safety protocols within the school district here. With the district’s permission, Oakland North is reprinting it in its entirety, with links at the end to resources geared for parents, students, teachers and other community members available on the school district’s website.
December 14, 2012
Dear Oakland Unified School District Parents and Staff,
We know that most of you heard about the tragic events which took place at a Connecticut school on Friday, December 14. Like you, we are devastated to learn of the many lives lost in this horrific shooting. We send our thoughts and condolences to the victims and their families and are sobered by the thought that so many children have been torn from their parents and this world in such a violent manner.
Our thoughts also turn inward as we reflect on the safety of our children here in Oakland and the violence that pervades many parts of this community. The massacre in Connecticut has aroused fears and questions about our readiness for such an event and our ability to counsel children as they cope with senseless death. Some parents have also requested advice on how to speak with children about this frightening development.
As to the issue of school security, there is no foolproof method to prevent incidents like the one that occurred in Connecticut, but we believe our level of readiness greatly exceeds that of the typical school district. Oakland Unified is one of just a few districts in California with a dedicated school police force. Oakland School Police (OSP) take part in regular trainings to deal with the possibility of a school shooter and frequently defuse less serious threats in the area surrounding our campuses. Our officers patrol campuses regularly and at some sites are stationed there to assist civilian School Security Officers (SSO).
Each of our campuses has a school safety plan covering everything from earthquake preparation, to lockdowns, to school intruders. After a security-related operation is implemented, we debrief the process and assess areas for improvement or how we might respond if a more serious incident were to occur.
We also take the emotional trauma of violence as seriously as the prospect of physical harm. Tragedies such as this reinforce the urgency of the work we do around mental health and conflict resolution. Our mental health professionals are always available to speak with students and staff about the effects of violence in the community and are on heightened alert given the sensitivity of today’s events. In that vein, they have provided the enclosed information to assist families as they help their children cope with this tragedy. Please take a few moments to familiarize yourself with this material and if you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact your school so they can connect you with members of our mental health team.
Director of Public Relations
Oakland Unified School District