Clarkstown School District Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton wrote a letter to parents outlining the steps the district took in reaction to the .
Morton wrote he visited the schools on Monday to review safety procedures and the preparation for how to handle questions students may have. He reviewed emergency protocols with each school building principal including drills, lockdowns and emergency evacuations. Morton noted he has been working with the Clarkstown Police Department as well.
A copy of Morton’s full letter is below.
Dear Clarkstown Parents, Guardians and Staff,
Today marked the first day of classes following the tragic events that transpired at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. I am pleased to report that our students were generally in good spirits and returned to the structure of their classroom without incident.
I would like to share with you some of the priorities we have reinforced across the district and highlight some of the activities that took place at each of the schools today.
I, along with senior members of my staff, visited each of our buildings today to provide support to our staff and students, to review our safety protocols and to reinforce the need to maintain structure and normalcy.
As I reflect on the day’s events, I would like to say first and foremost that I was extremely proud of the work being done by our teachers, physiologists, principals and other support personnel in each of the schools. Our goal was simple; to ensure that our children would return to their classrooms and their routine without incident. As many experts have reiterated, keeping to a regular schedule can be very reassuring for both children and adults. This was accomplished throughout the district as a result of the planning and excellent work of our staff.
It is important to note that while our staff did not memorialize this horrific event in any formal way within the classroom, we were prepared to offer age appropriate answers to student questions and had physiologists available to offer grief counseling where appropriate. I am pleased to say that there were few incidents of this support being required and parents were involved in each and every case. I would like to refer you to the National Association of School Psychologists for some practical advice for talking to children about violence (www.nasponline.org).
Today was also an opportunity for me to personally review our safety protocols in each of the schools and reinforce the required safeguards. I met with the security staff in each of our buildings to ensure they understand their role in this regard and have the necessary support.
Additionally, I asked each of the principals to review their emergency protocols and procedures with me. This also included a review of their past drill performance associated with safety hold, lock down procedures along with fire and emergency evacuation. This activity reinforced my confidence that we are prepared in the case of an emergency.
As I have shared with you previously, unfortunately schools cannot always be exempt from the violence in our society, but we are taking important precautions. I continue to collaborate with Chief Sullivan of the Clarkstown Police Department to maximize safety within our schools.
In the coming the days, our children will look to all of us for answers as they try to make sense of this horrible tragedy. The Clarkstown Central School District is committed to working with our parents and students to support their needs. I know together we can continue to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children.
Please feel free to contact my office or your principal if we can assist you in any way regarding this important subject.
Dr. J. Thomas Morton