Saskatchewan parents and teachers navigating Texas tragedy

As kids in Saskatchewan headed to school, the tragedy in Texas weighed on many parents and teachers wondering how to explain something that just doesn’t make sense.

“As a parent and an adult in the life of a child,” said Tamara Hinz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. “These events are very upsetting for us as well so I think before we even speak to a child about it, it’s really important for us to have that initial reaction ourselves so that we are not overwhelming or necessarily upsetting a child when we talk about it.”

Hinz added that it is also really important to ask a child what they know and what they are interested in learning more about. She also advised adults limit how much media is consumed surrounding tragedies such as what happened in Texas.

“For children especially who are very young they think in very concrete ways,” said Hinz. “So if they’re watching repetitive stories or news footage about an event, they may think it’s happening over and over again without realizing it’s all the same event.”

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Read more: Student caught with firearms outside Texas high school day after deadly shooting

For children who may express fears of school, Hinz states it’s important to reassure and remind children that their home and school are safe and although events like the one in Texas can be scary, they are rare. She also advises parents to really maintain a sense of normalcy and to focus on their routine.

“When upsetting or traumatic things happen,” said Hinz. ” Kids need that predictability and that consistency. So, as much as you can, just keep a normal schedule, activities, bed times, all of those things are really calming.”

At schools in Saskatchewan, safety is also a big priority. For more than a decade, lockdown drills have been practiced and safety protocols are updated every few months.

“There are all sorts of procedures and protocols for everything from securing the building to formal lockdowns,” said Sean Chase, Regina Catholic School Board Director of Education.

Read more: Texas school shooting: ‘Adventurous’ teacher, ‘sweetest little boy’ among 21 dead

Chase said that as frightening as it may be, the expectations surrounding the procedures and protocols have become familiar to students and faculty. He believes this is a positive thing because it means they are better prepared in the case or instance they are called into action for a potential emergency situation.

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“We are also really proud of being part of the violent threat risk assessment protocol ,” said Chase. “There are multiple partners including the Regina public school division, city of Regina police force, and other partners throughout the city that have also signed onto that protocol. The key element to that is to help us identify risky behaviors and events like what we’ve seen unfold in other communities.”

Chase said all faculty through the Regina Catholic School Division are trained and there are individuals assigned to that particular protocol that are always available for guidance. For parents wanting more information on the violent threat risk assessment, it is available on the Regina Catholic School Board’s website.

Read more: ‘Hatred doesn’t steal our hope’: Helping children understand, cope with Texas school shooting

Secure the building and lockdowns are two of the key procedures Chase said are practiced every year. He said there are also procedures for weather that he states are all about clearing space, getting to safe spaces, being mindful of how to behave in these situations and taking direction from staff in charge at that time.

“Much like a fire drill which most people would be aware of, ” said Chase. ” We’ve now incorporated practices like that into our culture and we do on a yearly basis.”

The Saskatoon Public School Board is working alongside 22 different community partners to help support teachers and students.

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“We have a long standing partnership with Kevin Cameron who is the Executive Director of the North American Centre for Trauma and Threat Assessment,” said Colleen Norris, Saskatoon Public School Board Education Superintendent.” Our partnership with him has resulted in us partnering with our community.”

Norris said having a safe, caring, and accepting space is their top priority so there is a re-focus on routine, education, what is happening in the classroom and they closely monitor the well-being of the teachers and students who may need extra support.

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