Local school districts respond to shooting tragedy

Teachers never know what role they might have to play in a given day, from providing safety to their students to watching out for their mental health, Bill Freeman, the president of the San Diego Education Association, said Dec. 14 in reference to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The gunfire killed 20 students and six adult victims. The shooter also died.

‘Teachers, their roles don’t stop as (an instructor),’’ Freeman said. “Kids look to teachers as parents in some cases, counselors in some cases; and teachers take those roles on because they really know these kids.’’

In response to the shooting, the Del Mar Union School District and Solana Beach School District superintendents issued the following statements on each district’s respective web site:

“We are extremely saddened by the tragic shooting that happened at an elementary school in Connecticut,” said Del Mar Union School District Superintendent Holly McClurg. “Our sympathies are with the families and the community involved. We want to reassure you that our standard safety measures are in place at all our schools, and we will continue to maintain vigilance and supervision by the adults on campus.

“Resources for discussing tragedies such as this with your children can be found on the Del Mar Union School District website, under the section, “Ways Parents Can Help During Difficult Times” at

“The most important thing we can do as adults is reassure our children that they are safe.”

Solana Beach School District Superintendent Nancy Lynch said, “ We want to offer our heartfelt sympathy and prayers to the parents, staff and community of Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, who suffered a horrific tragedy on their school campus.

“Your child’s safety is our highest priority. To support our parents in addressing this tragedy with their children, our school principals have sent an electronic message containing additional information.”

A link titled “Tips for Talking to Children After a Disaster” is on the Solana Beach School District web site at

San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward said the education system has an unspoken agreement with parents to keep their children safe and send them home a little smarter.

All of us who work with children take our responsibility to keep them safe very seriously,’’ Ward said.It’s at the heart and soul of everything we do. You can’t educate children without them being safe. As this morning’s incident shows, sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, evil forces upend our unspoken agreement.’’

Ward encouraged parents to speak with their children about the importance of alerting the proper authorities if they see or hear something suspicious on or near their campuses.

He said local school administrators will review safety plans and, along with counselors, discuss the incident with students and answer their questions.

San Diego County mental health experts Alfredo Aguirre (Director of County Behavioral Health Services) and Piedad Garcia (Assistant deputy director of County Behavioral Health Services) had this advice for parents issued via a press release:

“Incidents like this can generate a lot of fear and anxiety that can last a few days or weeks. That’s why it’s important for parents to be aware of their children’s response and be ready to talk openly about it, without providing too many details. Parents should control the amount of information children have access to and answer their questions simply without dramatizing the incident,” said Aguirre. “This helps to diminish fear and anxiety in children.”

The County operates the Access and Crisis Line seven days a week, 24 hours a day, where people can get help for issues such as depression, anxiety, anger, or other mental health challenges. The number is (888) 724-7240.

— City News Service and staff reports