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Marysville, Arlington schools join state, national officials in reacting to Conn. school shooting

Representatives of the Marysville and Arlington school districts have joined county, state and national officials in reacting to the shooting on the morning of Friday, Dec. 14, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., which killed 26 people total, including 20 children.

Statements posted on the Marysville School District website at www.msvl.k12.wa.us and the Arlington School District website at www.asd.wednet.edu extended the school districts' sympathies to those affected by the shooting, while offering advice to local parents on how they might help their children deal with the news of this tragedy.

"As educators and parents, we are especially saddened that most of the victims this morning were vulnerable, innocent children," the statement on the Marysville School District website read. "As our students are being dismissed today, they may soon hear of these events and understandably feel anxious and frightened. The same feelings will most likely be experienced by parents and school staff. We are all affected and feeling less safe as a result."

"This is a difficult situation and communicating with your children about a tragedy of this magnitude can be overwhelming," the statement on the Arlington School District website read. "The safety of our students is our highest priority."

The statement on the Marysville School District website noted that they have "a comprehensive student safety plan, and practice drills for lockdown, fire and other issues on a regular basis," in addition to working with the Marysville and Tulalip Tribal Police and Fire departments, as well as the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, "as part of our continuing effort to keep your children safe."

The statement on the Arlington School District website likewise pointed out that they've worked with the Arlington Police and Fire departments, as well as Cascade Valley Hospital and the city of Arlington, to put together a comprehensive emergency plan, which has been tested a number of times in each of the years since through drills for lock downs, earthquakes and fire, according to the plan.

"Following a drill, our Emergency Management Response Team reviews the success of the drill," the statement on the Arlington School District website read. "Improving our emergency procedures is part of the district's continuous improvement process."

Looking to the weekend and the students' return to school on Monday, Dec. 17, the statements on both school districts' websites acknowledged that news of the shooting would likely dominate news coverage throughout this time, and as such, the districts provided lists of tips for students' families and school faculty, to try and provide a greater sense of safety to their children and themselves.

The following recommendations were posted online by the Marysville School District:

  • Turn off or monitor the television. Endless news programs are likely to heighten anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and their personal reality.
  • Maintain a normal routine.
  • Stick to facts. Answer questions factually.
  • Remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from their parents and other caring adults around them.
  • Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.

The Arlington School District posted similar guidance on its own website, telling parents that, based on their children's ages, they should:

  • Minimize or eliminate exposure to the media. Repeated viewing of the information can contribute to increased anxiety, fear and other symptoms.
  • Minimize your child's exposure to conversations that are occurring about the event. Seeing and hearing adults overwhelmed or consumed with the information can increase children's fears.
  • Stay calm yourself. Calm adult responses and reactions can go a long way to helping children cope.
  • Let your child know it is normal to be afraid and adults worry too. The primary need of children and adolescents is to feel safe and secure. Brainstorm ideas for helping them cope with their fear, such as talking with you and other trusted adults when they are feeling worried, draw, write, physical exercise or listen to music. Reassure them their school is a safe place to be.
  • Take time to listen carefully to their feelings and worries.
  • Stay with everyday routines. All of us find safety in the predictable.
  • Watch for significant changes in behavior, such as headaches, stomachaches, clinginess, withdrawal or irritability.
  • Contact your school's counselor for additional resources and/or strategies if you have any concerns.

Both the Marysville and the Arlington school districts will have staff available to speak with students when they return to class on Dec. 17.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon encouraged everyone to keep the victims of the shooting in their thoughts and prayers.

"As a nation, we grieve for the families who have lost their loved ones, and pray that God hold them and comfort them during their time of need," Reardon said in a press statement posted online. "Please pray for all humanity that the better nature of our hearts compels us all to protect the most vulnerable of society, condemn acts of violence everywhere, and commit ourselves to the never-ending pursuit of civility and compassion in our own communities."

Reardon urged that such tragedies be prevented in the future by "addressing the factors that culminated in this horror."

"Our hearts and unending prayers are with the community of Newton and the people of Connecticut," Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said. "This heartless act of violence is incomprehensible. All Washingtonians stand with me in expressing our profound sorrow and grief."

Washington state Sen. Patty Murray likewise said that "our nation is stunned and grieving today over the horrendous, senseless shooting at a Connecticut elementary school."

President Obama pledged to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy that he would "have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families," before bemoaning the frequency of such tragedies and calling for Americans "to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

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