My Learning Plan
A Message from the Superintendent
Regarding the Newtown Tragedy
Dear Parents and Commack Families,
In the midst of the
holiday season, we are faced with a terrible and senseless
tragedy; a tragedy that strikes very close to home. Our hearts
go out to the people in Newtown who are mourning the lives of
children and adults alike. We cannot help but share their grief
and feel their pain and loss.
As I've said many times
in the past, the safety of our students and staff is of
paramount importance to all of us, as is their emotional
well-being. In that regard, our counselors, psychologists, and
social workers are always available to support students and
staff, and on Monday as well as throughout the coming week, they
will carefully monitor and assist those in need. Please contact
your child's school if you have concerns about the impact of
this traumatic event on your child(ren).
Regarding security, be
assured that our electronic security system was recently
upgraded to include digital security cameras that constantly
monitor our school buildings and grounds as well as electronic
door entry systems. You should know that our security cameras
are accessible to law enforcement via our security web portal
should an emergency situation arise.
security force and procedures, our system is designed so that
all entry doors are locked at each of our buildings except those
that are manned by a security guard. In addition, there are
security guards rotating and monitoring our facilities.Know that
our security staff is top notch, most with law enforcement
background and experience; and we conduct practice drills and
review lockdown procedures on a regular basis so students and
staff are prepared in the event a dangerous situation occurs. We
want our children and staff members to be prepared, protected,
safe, and secure in our schools at all times.
Although it may be difficult, please try to shield your children
from the barrage of media coverage around this event as exposure
will increase their anxiety and threaten their feelings of
security. Please spend some time with your children in an effort
to help them understand and process any information they may
have heard, and encourage them to seek assistance from an adult
if they are frightened or upset. As adults, we must be
especially supportive during this distressing time, and find
reasons to be thankful and move on when the time is right.
In closing, please be aware that we will continue
to review security procedures and protocols with all staff; we
will implement, where necessary, new protocols and procedures
(some of which remain confidential for security purposes); and
we will be ever vigilant in our efforts to keep our facilities
secure. Please see below for information from the National
Association of School Psychologists for guidance in helping
children cope with this tragedy.
Donald James, Ed.D
Superintendent, Commack Schools
Helping Children Cope in Times of Crisis - from
Tips for Parents and Teachers
Whenever a national tragedy occurs, such as
terrorist attacks or natural disasters, children, like many
people, may be confused or frightened. Most likely they will
look to adults for information and guidance on how to react.
Parents and school personnel can help children cope first and
foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security. As more
information becomes available, adults can continue to help
children work through their emotions and perhaps even use the
process as a learning experience.
All Adults Should:
- Model calm and control. Children
take their emotional cues from the significant
adults in their lives. Avoid appearing anxious or
- Reassure children that they are
safe and (if true) so are the other important adults
in their lives. Depending on the situation, point
out factors that help insure their immediate safety
and that of their community.
- Remind them that trustworthy
people are in charge. Explain that the government
emergency workers, police, firefighters, doctors,
and the military are helping people who are hurt and
are working to ensure that no further tragedies
- Let children know that it is okay
to feel upset. Explain that all feelings are okay
when a tragedy like this occurs. Let children talk
about their feelings and help put them into
perspective. Even anger is okay, but children may
need help and patience from adults to assist them in
expressing these feelings appropriately.
- Observe childrenís emotional
state. Depending on their age, children may not
express their concerns verbally. Changes in
behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also
indicate a childís level of grief, anxiety or
discomfort. Children will express their emotions
differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel
or express grief.
- Look for children at greater
risk. Children who have had a past traumatic
experience or personal loss, suffer from depression
or other mental illness, or with special needs may
be at greater risk for severe reactions than others.
Be particularly observant for those who may be at
risk of suicide. Seek the help of mental health
professional if you are at all concerned.
- Tell children the truth. Donít
try to pretend the event has not occurred or that it
is not serious. Children are smart. They will be
more worried if they think you are too afraid to
tell them what is happening.
- Stick to the facts. Donít
embellish or speculate about what has happened and
what might happen. Donít dwell on the scale or scope
of the tragedy, particularly with young children.
- Keep your explanations
developmentally appropriate. Early elementary school
children need brief, simple information that should
be balanced with reassurances that the daily
structures of their lives will not change. Upper
elementary and early middle school children will be
more vocal in asking questions about whether they
truly are safe and what is being done at their
school. They may need assistance separating reality
from fantasy. Upper middle school and high school
students will have strong and varying opinions about
the causes of violence and threats to safety in
schools and society. They will share concrete
suggestions about how to make school safer and how
to prevent tragedies in society. They will be more
committed to doing something to help the victims and
affected community. For all children, encourage them
to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Be a good
- Monitor your own stress level.
Donít ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief,
and anger. Talking to friends, family members,
religious leaders, and mental health counselors can
help. It is okay to let your children know that you
are sad, but that you believe things will get
better. You will be better able to support your
children if you can express your own emotions in a
productive manner. Get appropriate sleep, nutrition,
What Parents Can Do:
- Focus on your children over the
week following the tragedy. Tell them you love them
and everything will be okay. Try to help them
understand what has happened, keeping in mind their
- Make time to talk with your
children. Remember if you do not talk to your
children about this incident someone else will. Take
some time and determine what you wish to say.
- Stay close to your children. Your
physical presence will reassure them and give you
the opportunity to monitor their reaction. Many
children will want actual physical contact. Give
plenty of hugs. Let them sit close to you, and make
sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to
reassure them that they are loved and safe.
- Limit your childís television
viewing of these events. If they must watch, watch
with them for a brief time; then turn the set off.
Donít sit mesmerized re-watching the same events
over and over again.
- Maintain a ďnormalĒ routine. To
the extent possible stick to your familyís normal
routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc.,
but donít be inflexible. Children may have a hard
time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep
- Spend extra time reading or
playing quiet games with your children before bed.
These activities are calming, foster a sense of
closeness and security, and reinforce a sense of
normalcy. Spend more time tucking them in. Let them
sleep with a light on if they ask for it.
- Safeguard your childrenís
physical health. Stress can take a physical toll on
children as well as adults. Make sure your children
get appropriate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.
- Consider praying or thinking
hopeful thoughts for the victims and their families.
It may be a good time to take your children to your
place of worship, write a poem, or draw a picture to
help your child express their feelings and feel that
they are somehow supporting the victims and their
- Find out what resources your
school has in place to help children cope. Most
schools are likely to be open and often are a good
place for children to regain a sense of normalcy.
Being with their friends and teachers can help.
Schools should also have a plan for making
counseling available to children and adults who need
Click here for the
Superintendent's Emergency Planning/Student Safety Message
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