By now, you're aware of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT. According to news reports, a man walked into a school and killed 20 children and six adults. The shooter's mother is among the victims.
It is overwhelming and terrible and, despite the seeming regularity with which these type of events are reported by major news outlets, still almost beyond comprehension.
This mass killing is not a local story, and I questioned whether I should address it at all on Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch. As one reader noted when I raised the topic on our Facebook page "Stay local, enough media hogging up that story."
That's my instinct as well, for no other reason than my objective is to share information that the community will find of value. As a local journalist in a community 3,000 miles away from the tragedy, I question my ability to bring you anything of value on this story.
However, a few readers did respond saying they'd like to see some aspects of the story put into a local context, so I'm going to respond to some of those requests below.
Safety at Local Schools
Gloria Perez-Stewert commented on Facebook, "Local, but parents like me are naturally interested in how the national stuff affects us locally."
Tanya King said "make it local by investigating the security procedures in place at area schools to make sure they are doing everything possible to prevent this from ever becoming a local story."
In response to the shooting in Newtown, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department released the following statement regarding school shooting safety procedures:
On behalf of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) we are deeply saddened by today’s horrifying event this morning at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and Los Angeles School Police Chief Steve Zipperman want to assure all parents and members of our school community that the LAUSD’s number one priority is the safety of our students and staff. Every campus within the LAUSD has a school safety plan in place. These plans include responding to incidents where students and staff may be in danger of injury.
On a daily basis, the Los Angeles School Police department deploys over 200 police officers throughout the District on campus and safe passages patrol. In addition, we collaborate with public safety and mental health agencies to ensure planning, preparation, response and mitigation to all incidents that may affect student safety.
Although there is no information of any credible threats to the LAUSD students and staff, the LA School Police, the Los Angeles Police Department and other law enforcement agency partners are committed to providing extra patrol and high visibility presence around our schools today to reduce any fears or anxiety related to today’s incident.
Every school in the LAUSD has a crisis team to assist students and staff in dealing with the aftermath of critical incidents. If you feel your child might be in need of additional support please notify your school’s administrator and referrals can be made to the school’s support services staff or the appropriate School Mental Health Clinic.
Every school in L.A. County, public and private, is required to have an emergency plan, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Law enforcement agencies in L.A. County have an emergency notification system called ALERT LA COUNTY. To register your phone number for alerts, click here.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has several other methods of alerting the public to emergencies:
- Email and text alerts through Nixle. Click here to register for alerts from the Los Angeles County Sheriff and your local sheriff station. You can also text your zip code to 888777 to receive text alerts only.
- Facebook page of the LASD newsroom. Like the page to receive updates in your newsfeed.
- The LASD Newsroom Twitter account is @LASD_News. Each LASD patrol station has their own Twitter handle. Find them by searching through accounts that follow @LASD_News.
Talking to Children About the Shooting
Facebook user Tom Rosie Abt commented "you need to think about how it impacts people locally. As a dad I want to know how I answer my 8 year old daughter when she asks me why did they kill those kids? Or, am I safe at my school? So I would hope that you would provide information that would help us cope with such a horrific tragedy."
The Boston Globe posted an article Friday morning that addresses this issue directly, providing nine tips for talking to children in the wake of a school shooting. You can read it here.
Giving People a Place to Talk
"Just give people a place to talk, start a thread (just like you did now) and for everyone reading," said Annette Chavez Alleman.
Patch is a community platform for Highland Park. So, I encourage anyone who would like to talk about this issue (respectfully, tactfully, and with an understanding that this is a very difficult time for many readers) to do so below.