McKinley-Thatcher Response to Tragedy in Texas

Posted May 25, 2022

Dear McT Families and community,

We are shocked and saddened to learn of the horrific events that occurred at a Texas elementary school today. DPS communications and resources are coming out soon, but I wanted to share some important tips for your family in supporting young children and speaking to them before they come to school tomorrow.

  • There’s no perfect way to address tragedies with children, and how adults approach it depends both on the child’s age and temperament. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding such topics with children until they are around age 8, depending on the child’s temperament and sensitivity.  
  • Prevent children from seeing pictures or the news. Images will stick with children longer than words. The ongoing coverage can cause fear and anxiety that children do not have the skills to process.
  • Process your own emotional response away from children if possible. What you do and how you react will impact them more than what you say.
  • Pre-school / Kindergarten children should be shielded from the news as much as possible. If you talk with your child about the event, consider a one sentence, very simple update. Perhaps you want to let them know that a person with a serious illness felt angry and hurt people. Reassure them that grownups are working to keep them safe.
  • Early Elementary children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools. (See McT safety measures, below).

We will provide this same guidance to our teachers. Staff will not bring up the topic of the school shooting but will be equipped on how to speak with children following the recommendations above. We will have mental health staff available to support children individually who demonstrate signs of distress or continue to bring up the event.

Here are some additional resources to help you support your family:

We know incidents like this can bring forth many emotions and questions about safety. At McKinley-Thatcher, your child’s safety is our top priority. We recognize that you place an enormous amount of trust in us each day you send your child to school. We will continue to prioritize your child’s safety at all times. 

At McKinley-Thatcher, we have the following protocols and safety features in place:

  • Exterior doors are locked at all times. Anyone entering the building must buzz in at the main entrance. The office staff checks the camera before buzzing anyone in.
  • All visitors enter through the main doors and report to the office. 
  • All visitors check in with office staff and are issued a visitor badge or enter their driver’s license into the Raptor system which prints a picture ID to be worn at all times.
  • Volunteers are pre-scheduled and check in at the office when they arrive and when they leave. All volunteers that work alone with children must pass a background check.
  • Any time a class is outside, the adults have a walkie talkie to communicate with the main office and school leaders.
  • All interior doors can be locked from inside the classroom, allowing adults to secure individual classrooms in times of danger. 
  • We practice our safety drills multiple times a year, and at different times of the day and in different locations. Staff know exactly what to do and how to lead students if there is ever an emergency.  
  • And finally, in the case of an unlikely emergency, the main office has a distress signal that connects directly to the Denver Police Department and the DPS Safety and Security Team. If this signal is activated, emergency teams are dispatched immediately. 

Please continue to lift your voices in support of solutions that will keep our kids safe and our classrooms the places of learning and joy they are meant to be. 

Our hearts go out to the families, staff, and students impacted by this tragedy.   

Sonia Geerdes