CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison spoke to school officials and Mecklenburg County police chiefs on Dec. 17 in Charlotte to discuss the safety of county schools.
Rhonda Lennon, CMS Board of Education Representative for District 1, was at Morrison’s address and said that Mecklenburg County schools have been asked to review their crisis policies. She spoke Dec. 17 at the Cornelius town board meeting.
Lennon said there has been an increased police presence at schools, “not really for added security, it was really there for comfort.”
Police were also present to help control the increased traffic, as schools saw an increase in the number of parents taking children to school rather than putting them on school buses.
“I think parents did take a little more time to hug their kids goodbye before they departed their presence today, and I’m sure they hugged them extra harder as they came in the door,” Lennon said.
Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle spoke about the CMS discussion and the steps being taken in north Mecklenburg County.
Security in Cornelius schools has been “good” before the shooting, Hoyle said.
“But they are certainly taking further steps as far as check-ins and check-outs and access to doors during visitation times and who can come and go during any given time,” he said.
“Prevention isn’t as easy as you think,” Hoyle said. “Schools are public places and we have to rethink that to get to the bottom of it … I can’t say I have the solution and to not worry about it in Cornelius, but I can certainly tell you that there are changes that have already happened and probably more to follow.”
“A lot of people are asking what steps can be put in place,” Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte said, referring to the school tragedy. “There aren’t really good ideas on how to prevent this and solve it. That’s what makes this absolutely troubling.”
He urges residents to look to the media and other outlets like local churches for help in coping with the aftermath of the shootings.
Huntersville United Methodist Church is helping parents learn how talk to their kids by hosting a discussion forum with Dr. Mark Young from 7-8 p.m. Dec. 20. Young will be speaking about a framework for parents to handle the many questions children are asking about the school shooting.
He will also talk about strategies to engage children and how to best answer their questions.
The forum will include an open question and discussion forum. Child care will be provided.
Connecticut tragedy should move us all to act
The Herald Weekly Letters to the Editor
Like most of America, I am still reeling from the tragedy in Connecticut.
So many of our hearts have been broken wide open and are full of sadness, agony and grief. My hope is that the families and community can feel our thoughts and prayers of comfort and peace.
I also hope this tragedy will move people to ask, “How can I make this world a better place?”
How can I contribute to peace in some way?
And am I contributing in any way, either subtly or directly to a violent culture?
Am I teaching my children kindness and compassion?
Am I allowing violence to be used as any form of entertainment in my home?
I hope we can search our souls and do our part to create a kinder world.
– Patti Martin, Huntersville
Answering children’s grief questions
Following the events in Connecticut last week, children, especially young children, may have questions about what happened and why. The following answers and suggestions are useful in helping adults to communicate with children, at home and in the classroom.
Q. When children ask questions about incidents like the one in Connecticut, what are the most important things a parent should keep in mind?
A. Honesty. Tell the child it is OK to talk about the situation and show emotions. Adults should realize children have big imaginations and if their questions are not answered, their imagination will fill in the blanks.
Keep responses simple and age-appropriate. “Are those children going to heaven?” should be answered with a simple “Yes,” without need for qualification or theological treatise.
Q. If a child never asks questions, should an adult bring it up?
Parents can ask the child if they have heard about the incident or something that happened. Ask the child if they have any questions about it. Also notice if the child is “asking” non-verbally through a drawing, a play activity or a song. If children are allowed to feel and express their grief, they are usually resilient.
Q. Once a child hears about an incident like this but doesn’t ask questions, what signs should a parent look for that would indicate the child is bothered by it?
Adults should look for regression in behavior and not wanting to go to school. Monitor the child’s behavior through drawings and acting out. Depending on the age of the child he/she might not be able to put their feelings into words. Play is another way a child might exhibit unresolved feelings.
Q. If a child expresses a desire to “help” after a situation like this, what should one do?
Follow their lead if they have a specific idea; maybe encourage a drawing or letter to the families or community of Newtown.
Q. Will some children experience long-term effects after hearing of situations like this? What should adults do?
Some children may be affected for a while, and if adults think the child has symptoms that go on for a long period of time they should seek professional assistance.
– Compiled by Dr. Laurie Hicks, a pediatrician and director of palliative care at Levine Children's Hospital; David Carl, executive director of pastoral care services at Carolinas HealthCare System, and Lynna Alvarnas, a registered nurse and coordinator of palliative care services at Levine Children's Hospital.