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Area school districts respond to Connecticut massacre

Published On: Dec 17 2012 06:58:36 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 17 2012 07:42:43 PM CST

MIDDLETON, Wis. -

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut is sparking serious conversations in schools between teachers, parents, administrators and students.

Districts sent out a number of letters to parents and internal notes to staff over the weekend. Some staff members even met in person on their days off to talk over how to handle the first day back after Friday's tragedy.

"I think we hold our elementary schools very close to our hearts," said Jeannette Deloya, a Madison Metropolitan School District social worker program support worker.

The district put out a letter to Madison parents -- both online and in a hard copy -- offering advice and stressing safety measures in schools.

Deloya urged middle and high school teachers to begin Monday's classes with a structured conversation about the mass shooting in Connecticut. She said that while the subject should not be brought up to younger children unless they ask questions, it's important for the older students to be able to discuss the topic and for teachers to know what they know about it.

"This particular incident offered people an opportunity, students and staff, the opportunity to talk about, 'What does this mean for our community? What kind of sense do we want to make out of this?'" Deloya said.

Deloya added that social workers are trained to offer calming coping mechanisms to students in order to ease anxiety if necessary.

In the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, Director of Student Services Jerry Nicholson is revisiting safety policies and procedures with staff as the district has sent out about 10 letters to parents.

"You're listening to the details of the situation, assessing your own plans as a district, and assessing your procedures to make sure that you're making the adjustments you need to make sure you're learning from each situation to keep kids safe in your own district," Nicholson said.

Nicholson said it is too early to change anything about the current system, but said "secure drills" -- ones where students practice for a dangerous person being in the building -- are performed at least twice a year.

"I think what's amazing is that our kids catch on to those things so quick, and the kids are not naive," Nicholson said. "They're innocent, but they understand, and they understand being prepared."

Deloya and Nicholson stressed that parents need to also be empowered. They hope parents know that resources are available to them, and that their children will be safe at school.

"You know what's best for your child. You can make really good decisions about supporting your children and preparing them," Deloya said.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of homicides on school grounds has generally decreased since the 1990s. For the full table of data, click here.

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