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Benton: My Heart Breaks for the Community of Newtown

Wilmington's Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton reacted to a tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Wilmington Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton was among those to express her condolences to the families of those impacted by Friday morning's deadly school shooting that rocked a quiet Connecticut town.

"My heart breaks for the community of Newtown," said Benton. "I just can't imagine the sadness and shock."

According to reports, including Newtown Patch, as many as 27 people are dead, including a large number of children after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Early Friday afternoon, Wilmington parents reacted with shock to the news of the shooting.

Benton said that safety is the number one priority in Wilmington Public Schools, and that there is a system wide safety committee that meets each month with police to review and refine the district's plan.

"All schools, including elementary, have monthly drills that include lockdowns as well as evacuations," said Benton. "In addition, we have the doors all locked and everyone has to sign into the buildings before they can reach a classroom."

Wilmington parents may find their children hearing about the tragedy or seeing it on the news and find themselves in a difficult discussion.

For parents seeking guidance on how to address the tragedy with their own children, if it comes up, PBS has an article with flexible suggestions for answering kids' questions about the news.

Wilmington High School principal Eric Tracy originally tweeted out that link and later added, "Give you kids a double hug today! Don't forget 'I love you!'"

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has a 24-hour hotline dedicated to providing disaster crisis counseling at 1-800-985-5990 or by texting "TalkWithUs" to 66746. The hotline is open to U.S. residents who are experiencing psychological distress as a result of a natural or man-made disasters, incidents of mass violence or any other disasters.

Benton said this morning's incident is a harsh reminder that school communities across the nation must always be on high alert to protect their children.

"This certainly tells me that it can happen anywhere," said Benton. "Again, my sympathies (go out) to the Newtown community.

Joanne Benton December 14, 2012 at 08:38 PM
We are getting calls from parents asking what to tell their children about this horrific tragedy. Here is some information that may help. It’s all right to tell children that you can’t explain why an incident happened. "Stick to facts – don’t fill in details that are not known; don’t try to explain the unexplainable. Know that is O.K. to say, "I don’t know." - "This is all we know right now." It’s O.K. not to have the answers." Tips for talking to children about violent events 1. Reassure children that they are safe 2. Make time to talk 3. Keep explanations developmentally appropriate 4. Review safety procedures 5. Observe and monitor a child’s emotional state 6. Limit media coverage of these events 7. Maintain a normal routine Source: Lane Valum, school psychologist coordinator for Canyons School Distri”
Matt Schooley December 14, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Thank you for passing this information along, Joanne. I am sure it will be helpful for parents in the community during this difficult time.
Cathleen December 14, 2012 at 09:47 PM
This is such a tragic event. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I know these situations are very rare, though extremely publicized, I do have concerns about the safety in the schools. Yes, the doors are locked. But the visitor merely has to ring the bell and the door is unlocked. A sign in sheet is not going to deter a mentally unstable person with a gun. I don't have an answer for the problem, I know that we cannot have an armed police officer at every door at every school, but I'm wondering if the schools are thinking about or considering any other options. My son is in kindergarten at the Wildwood School, we are very happy with the care and education he is getting there, but this event does make me think - what if this had happened at Wildwood? Unfortunately, I don't think we would have had a different outcome.
parent December 15, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I am having the same thoughts Cathleen. I love our schools, but this could have sadly happened here. Once a person is 'buzzed' into a school, anything goes ;(
Dot December 15, 2012 at 02:55 AM
I have had 3 children go through the Wilmington schools till high school and they have been wonderful to us. I grew up in the city and while my kids went to school there before we moved to Wilmington everyday parents took turns sitting at the door checking people coming into the school. We also had to call the school to notify them we were coming. The message was given to the parent at the door and you did not get into the school without a picture ID. This was a pain in the beginning but once in place there were not any issues. I know we are all trying to work and raise our kids but I would hate to see a tragedy before something is at least tried out in our schools. My heart goes out to all effected by this tragedy.

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