Dear Members of the Early Education and Care Community,
The Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Public Health, and the Department of Mental Health are deeply saddened by the news of the tragic events that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut today, and we stand ready to provide you support. This tragedy touches all of us, both near and far, regardless of whether we are educators, parents, students, or clinicians. The safety of all of our children, our families, our neighbors, and our communities at large are integral to the future prosperity of our Commonwealth and our nation as a whole.
It is essential that our families feel secure that when they go to school or work that their children are safe in their learning environment, and that our students are safe and protected in their public schools or early education and care programs. The health, safety and well-being of everyone in these settings is of utmost concern, and in Massachusetts we continue to utilize numerous mechanisms to ensure that this continues. Licensed early education and care program space must be approved to ensure children’s safety, and the allowable staff-child ratios are designed to allow for proper supervision and safety of all children at all times. Licensed programs must have detailed emergency evacuation plans, and must have staff available that are trained in emergency procedures, including evacuations, and the programs must practice the evacuation drills monthly.
Your children, students, relatives, or other members of your community may understandably have questions or concerns in response to the terrible event at the Sandy Hook Elementary School today. There are several resources available that are designed to offer social and emotional support to those who need assistance with processing, understanding, or coping with tragedies or grief. In hopes of helping families and communities cope with such tragic events, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has the resources available.
Additionally, PBS has an article with flexible suggestions for answering kids' questions about the news, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has tips for students, schools, adults, families, responders and health professionals in dealing with tragedies.
We hope that these materials may be of some assistance to you or someone you know who is affected by this tragedy.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the students, staff, families, and community members during this very difficult time.
Sherri Killins, Ed.D
Department of Early Education and Care
Lauren Smith, MD
Department of Public Health
Gordon Harper, MD
Department of Mental Health