School staff members in Bernards Township schools have been instructed to monitor those students who may be distraught after the shootings that killed 20 children in a Connecticut elementary school last Friday and counselors will be available and ready to assist those students who need it, the schools superintendent said in a message to parents.
"Please be assured that Bernards Township schools have clear plans for both school security and for student support," Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said in the message that was to have gone out in the Friday folder.
"Our district maintains a close relationship with local police at all times through our School Resource Officers," the letter said. Markarian said Bernards Township schools regularly practice emergency security drills in accordance with state mandated regulations.
While Markarian stressed there is absolutely no information to suggest a threat to our district at this time, he said parents may notice an increased police presence at the schools.
Added police presence just "good idea right now."
Markarian added on Monday that he just thought the increased presence of police at arrival and dismissal would be a good idea right now. "We have reviewed security protocols and will continue to do so."
A separate communication sent to staff asked teachers and other staff to "Please watch out for our kids — if any students need the assistance of a counselor next week in school please direct them to the counseling office."
Staff members who have their own concerns or need assistance were asked to communicate with school administration.
Shool staff such as secretaries or administrators who might be bombarded with questions about school safety and security should offer assurance that the school officials work closely with local police to keep schools as safe as possible.
If parents seek further answers, they should be directed to township police, Markarian said.
"Normally at this time of year I would be sending you wishes for a happy holiday season, unfortunately today I am writing to you with a heavy heart," the letter said.
The letter noted that many families and children of Bernards Township will go into this weekend with a sense of unrest.
Controlling exposure to what students see and hear through the media or through adult conversation is one important consideration, Markarian said. Resources from The Traumatic Loss Coalition for Youth are available at http://ubhc.umdnj.edu/brti/tlc/guidelines/index.htm, he said.
An attached PDF from the coalition discusses tips for dealing with children on the topic of violence and tragedy.
Liberty Corner psychotherapist Alicia Camlibel also gave local parents advice on how to talk to children about tragedies and acts of violence such as the Connecticut shootings.