The Federal Way Public Schools interim Superintendent Sally McLean sent the following letter to local families on Friday, following the shootings at Marysville Pilchuck High School that left two dead and four wounded:
This morning we learned of a shooting at a high school in Marysville. We do not yet know the details about the circumstances, but we do know that this incident, like all shootings, is troubling to adults and children. We struggle to understand why tragedies such as this occur.
You may also wonder if our schools are prepared for such an event. Here’s what I can tell you. Our district, and every building in the district, has an emergency preparedness plan. Our plans have been developed in coordination with the King County’s First Responder system and the state’s Department of Emergency Management.
They are continually finessed as we learn from others’ experiences. We have been briefed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the governor’s office and emergency services. And we have practiced and trained to respond with confidence.
Ultimately, the safety of our schools depends on all of us. It will take all of us — parents, teachers, community members — working together. We want our children to develop the knowledge, skills, and encouragement to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent manner, using words instead of fists or weapons.
Here’s one place we can start. Encourage your student to be part of the solution by practicing the 3 SAFE T’s:
TELL – Emphasis to your student that “telling is not tattling” and encourage him or her to report weapons and other instances of campus crime, violence or bullying that threaten the schools’ environment.
TALK – Explain that if he or she starts to feel unsafe at school, talk to a trusted adult. That person could be a teacher, parent, school counselor, or religious leader
TIP – Studies show that students who commit violent crimes at school share their thoughts with someone. Make your student knows that if they have information regarding a potentially dangerous situation, they should call or text the SchoolSafety Tip Line, 253-945-7233 (SAFE). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reports can be made anonymously if they choose.
Finally, school guidance counselors remind us that as caring adults, we can make the difference for children between being overwhelmed by circumstances they cannot control and developing critical life-long emotional and coping skills.
Here are a few suggestions for helping our children feel safe:
• Turn off or monitor the television and other electronic devices. Endless news programs are likely to heighten anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and their personal reality.
• Maintain a normal routine.
• Stick to facts. Answer questions factually.
• Remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from their parents and adults.
• Be optimistic.
• Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.
• Take care of yourself. You are better able to help your students if you are coping well. If you are anxious or upset, your children are more likely to be so as well.
As terrible and frightening as incidents like these are, they are rare. Schools remain a very safe place for children to spend their days.
If you feel your child would benefit by talking to a professional, I encourage you to reach out to your school and request support.
Sally McLean, superintendent