Jean Skorapa is the superintendent of RSU 5, which includes the towns of Freeport, Durham and Pownal.

“Caregivers and school personnel have a responsibility to help children and youth feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security, reinforcing their natural resilience, and talking to them about their fears,” according to the National Association of School Psychologists.

I am a proud lifelong resident of the beautiful state of Maine. In the small town in which I grew up, the front door to our family home was regularly unlocked and my parents left the car running when stopping at the local market for a gallon of milk. On Friday nights, teenagers would pile into the tiny theater in town while adults walked carefree up and down our little Main Street greeting neighbors.

Times have changed and we no longer leave the doors of our homes open or our cars running unattended. However, we have continued to gather with friends and neighbors to share a meal or participate in an event we mutually enjoy. In some ways, it is as if time stood still in our small state.

Two weeks ago the unimaginable occurred in our idyllic state that had a profound impact. Our neighbors in Lewiston were doing those very activities so many do regularly when a horrific act of gun violence took the lives of 18 people and injured many others. This senseless and intentional act of violence with disregard for human life shook us to our core. However, being resilient Mainers, we came together in our time of need to support one another.

This event has had a profound effect not only on us as adults, but on our children. It is only natural that our students may feel shaken and concerned for their own safety. While the shooting did not occur in our schools, it has impacted our school community deeply. It is important that over the next few weeks we listen carefully to our children and accept and validate their feelings. They need to be reassured that our schools remain safe places where they are cared for.

Some recommendations from the National Association of School Psychologists for supporting our children after an act of gun violence include:

  • reassuring them they are safe
  • validating their feelings
  • making time to talk
  • keeping explanations developmentally appropriate
  • reviewing safety procedures
  • observing their emotional states
  • limiting access to television and social media
  • correcting  misinformation
  • maintaining a normal routine
  • talking about steps they can take to make a positive difference

While it is difficult to make sense of a tragedy like this, we will continue to come together as a community to support each other and our students through this challenging time. Our schools remain committed to providing a safe, nurturing environment for your children. Thank you for your support as we come together to ensure the well-being of our students.

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