We are deeply saddened by the tragic events that transpired today at Freeman High School in Rockford, Washington, in the greater Spokane area. Our thoughts are with all those affected and we acknowledge the bravery of staff, parents and community partners who reacted immediately to protect children and staff at the school. If you have not had an opportunity to access news reports today, there was a fatal shooting at the Freeman High School this morning. The suspect is in custody and we anticipate that there will be additional media coverage of this event as it unfolds.
Although events like this are extremely rare, we recognize the impact that they may have on each of us—our children, staff, families and friends. Individuals react to tragedy of this magnitude in various ways, such as sadness, grief, helplessness, anxiety and anger, and honoring of the varied feelings should be validated and respected.
In traumatic events, proximity to the event is an important factor in predicting reactions from students and staff. In general, those closest to the trauma are the most likely to have experienced psychological harm. Because it is difficult to predict how anyone will react to a traumatic event, the best we can do is to be supportive and responsive to our students and their varied responses.
Our staff has prepared some tips to help you support our students at this time:
- Recognize that children may become concerned that something bad will happen to themselves, family or friends. Explain that safety measures are in place and reassure them that you and other adults will take every precaution to protect them.
- If your child is not focused on the tragedy, do not dwell on it. Try to avoid having detailed adult conversations regarding the tragedy in front of children. However, be available to answer questions to the best of your ability. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behavior or social interactions.
- Limit exposure of your children to media coverage. Images of a disaster or crisis can become overwhelming, especially if watched repetitively. Young children in particular may not be able to distinguish between images on television and their personal reality. While older children may choose to watch the news—be available to discuss what they see and to help put that information into perspective.
- Maintain normal family routines as much as possible. Routine family activities, classes and friends can help children feel more secure.
- Be aware of your own needs. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief and anger. Talking to friends, family members, faith leaders and mental health counselors can help. Let your children know you are sad. You will be better able to support them if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner.
- For those students who are having significant reactions to this event, please know mental health support is available throughout the district from counselors, social workers and school psychologists.
As always, our top priority is the safety and well-being of each of our students—your children. This is a responsibility we take very seriously. It’s important for you to know help is available through our schools. If you are concerned about your student or feel he or she needs additional support, please contact your principal or assistant principal.
Dr. Ivan Duran