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Parents should speak with kids about shootings

TALK TO THEM. Reassure them. Give them a hug.

With three school shootings in a week, it’s a good time for parents to comfort their school-age kids. The attack Monday at a Lancaster County school that left five girls dead is close enough to home that kids might be asking if it could happen here.

The reports have been on TV and radio news, in newspapers and certainly on the Internet. Kids surely have been talking about it Tuesday if not already on Monday. The e-mails, IMs and text messages have been flying. Next will be the rumors, speculation and other misinformation.

Parents shouldn’t minimize the concerns of their children. While there’s no reason to think an attack will happen here, that may not be clear to young minds.

Security at area public schools is very likely tight compared to the one-room school house in Lancaster County, but that may not be apparent to your kids. And parents shouldn’t take safety for granted. Is security at your public school at the level it needs to be? Are area private and parochial schools as guarded?

Northeastern Pennsylvania hasn’t had school shootings, but there have been breaches of security. In January of 2005, a man entered a Pringle Street Elementary School in Kingston kindergarten room and told a school official he was a police officer in Newark, N.J. He told Kingston police the same day he was a corrections officer in New Jersey. He was neither. Later that month he was on school grounds with a pistol. There was no violence or threat – the man was charged and pleaded guilty – but it was alarming.

School officials should do everything they can to reassure parents. Parents can ask questions if they have real concerns. And young people need to be a part of the discussion. What makes them afraid? Are emergency situations addressed at school? What are the plans?

Parents can emphasise the importance of following the guidelines set by schools concerning sign-in sheets, secure entrances to school buildings and similar regulations.

It’s difficult to explain why these shootings happened in Colorado and just a few hours away. It’s difficult to explain irrational behavior. The truth is that madness can happen anywhere. But there are measures of security in place at most of the schools in this area. School officials can give honest assurance to parents and caregivers about security, and parents can do the same with kids.

Most of all, talk with your kids. Listen to their concerns and fears. Let them ask questions. It’s only natural. That’s why we send them to school.

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