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Superintendent Emails Parents in Wake of Connecticut School Shooting

San Ramon Valley Unified School District Superintendent Mary Shelton told parents that safety is the district's highest priority.

In the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut Friday, San Ramon Valley Unified School District Superintendent Mary Shelton sent an email to parents emphasizing the importance of school safety to the district.

Here is her full letter to parents.

Dear parents/guardians,

In light of the horrific school shooting incident in Connecticut this morning, I wanted to remind you that, as a school district, student safety is our highest priority. Whether it involves a natural disaster or something human-initiated, we fully understand that the protection of children is our most important role, and that learning is difficult in an environment in which children do not feel safe. As we continue to reflect on the senseless and tragic incident that took place in Connecticut this morning, I would like to provide you with some information about some of the things we do to promote safe campuses. At the same time, I want to make available to you some resources that can help provide comfort to children both at home and at school during times like these.

It is important to understand that school shootings are extremely rare and that high profile incidents like Newtown and Columbine tend to overshadow the fact that violent crime has been steadily decreasing in schools since the early 1990s. With that said, we also realize that no community is immune to such incidents, and that we must do everything possible (and within reason) to ensure the safety of our students.

We continue to work very closely with the San Ramon and Danville Police Departments, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department and the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District to ensure safe campuses at all of our schools. These efforts include both prevention and response strategies, with a high priority on effective communication during an emergency. We were assured that today, in particular, local police officers have been a visible presence on all of our elementary and middle school campuses. Each of our high schools has a full-time school resource officer on campus every day.

We have performed comprehensive school safety audits at each of our schools that identify entry and exit points and any vulnerable aspects of a school’s physical layout. We also have in place electronic mapping for every school. Fire protection and law enforcement have this information and are intimately familiar with the layouts of our facilities, and can respond appropriately.

Each school has its own emergency plan that acts as a guide before, during and after an emergency situation. Our schools routinely conduct safety drills for a variety of situations like earthquakes, fires and “intruder on campus” scenarios. This includes audible alarm systems and training for staff and students. As a district, we are also involved in community-wide drills and trainings that help equip our employees to effectively respond to emergency situations.

The best prevention strategies, however, involve the awareness and alertness of students, staff members and parents. I wish to re-emphasize the importance of notifying the school/district if you see or hear of a student or other individual who may have the intent or potential to harm self or others. Students are encouraged to talk to an adult on campus if they are concerned about school safety. The school district also has an anonymous tip-line available; 925-820-5632. For those who feel threatened or know of someone who feels threatened by violence, the Contra Costa Crisis Center also has a hotline with access to counselors 7 days a week. That number is 1-800-863-7600.

We rely heavily on the efforts of parents and guardians to provide emotional support for children at home, and to reinforce the fact that schools are safe places for children to be.

With all of the disturbing television and newspaper images coming from this most recent tragedy, it is normal for children to experience a wide range of emotions including shock, confusion, anger, hostility and denial or inability to acknowledge the situation has occurred. Most children are able to deal with their emotions with adequate support from family, friends, and school personnel. At home, parents are encouraged to reduce the radio and television exposure to this event and talk to their children about what they have seen or heard in the media.

School personnel are trained to notice children who may be struggling emotionally and provide them with the support they need. Please feel free to contact your child’s teacher if you have concerns about your child.

For more information on how to help your child, or other school mental health resources, the following may be helpful:
·      Parent Guidelines for Crisis Response by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress; www.aaets.org/parentguidelines.pdf<http://www.aaets.org/parentguidelines.pdf>
·      California Department of Education, Counseling and Student Support Services Branch; Information on coping with tragedy, www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh/<http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh/>
·      American School Counselor Association; www.schoolcounselor.org<http://www.schoolcounselor.org/>
·      Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA for Kids); General guidelines about helping children in a disaster, www.fema.gov/kids/<http://www.fema.gov/kids/tch_after.htm>

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,
Mary Shelton, Superintendent
San Ramon Valley Unified School District

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