Superintendent's Update 12-6-21

Superintendent's Update 12-6-21
Posted on 12/06/2021

December 6, 2021

Dear Royal Oak Families,

Today, all Royal Oak Schools staff came together and supported each other in the shadow of the Oxford tragedy. We met as a whole to receive help from trained staff on coping with trauma along with refresher active assailant training.

The morning started with information from our social workers and school psychologists. They spoke with emotion about how to deal with trauma, how to take care of yourself, and how to talk to students. The team of Social Worker, Erin Shaughnessy, and School Psychologists, Dina Bansen, Rachel Champagne, and Francine Wagley led the presentation, defining trauma, secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, and how to recognize the signs of these situations.

High-profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security, and talking with them about their fears.

Here are some tips from the presentation for parents to utilize:

  • Reassure children that they are safe.
  • Pay attention and be a good listener.
  • Limit access to news coverage so children have time away from reminders about the trauma.
  • Allow children to ask questions. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate.
  • Review safety routines.
  • Encourage activities such as letter writing or making cards where children thank those who help in our community; give children opportunities where they can help others.
  • Be aware of your child's emotional state.
  • Let children know that they are not to blame when bad things happen.
  • Model self-care, set routines, eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, exercise, and take deep breaths to handle stress.

Also this morning, our staff was joined by Royal Oak Chief of Police Mike Moore, Police Lt. Pat Stanton, and Officer Joe Yerke, School Resource Officer. Officer Yerke trained the entire staff on the principles of ALICE and how to react in an active shooter situation. Officer Yerke is fully trained in the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) emergency response protocols, which are integrated into our current plans and past training, and he is trained in active shooter response.

Officer Yerke presented a thorough training on key elements of lockdown safety plans which include asking everyone to run, hide, and/or fight. Each building, each classroom, and each emergency situation is different and will require us to approach "run, hide, fight" differently. "Run" is to get away from an immediate threat, "hide" is to hide in classrooms or spaces while locking and barricading the door, and "fight" as a last resort. Officer Yerke's presentation will soon be made available to parents and the community.

In the afternoon, all staff returned to their specific buildings to reflect, evaluate and participate in emergency drills. They worked together on Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs), discussed what their roles are with students, and practiced using the various safety technologies installed in our schools.

Today, we are examining our safety procedures and will reinforce any changes that were recommended by law enforcement. We are working on additional resources for parents so you can better understand the components of our EOPs. The school district will continue to dedicate resources to the safety of students and staff by reviewing our safety plans, making necessary changes to our facilities, and offering further training. We are in the process of holding developmentally appropriate discussions with our students and their teachers regarding trauma, threats, and components of our plans.

We have heard nothing but gratitude from our staff for taking the time today to receive more training, reassure them that our schools are safe, and provide them with added tools to enforce protocols when necessary.

Our students reap tremendous benefits from being in school. Aside from academics, they thrive on personal connections and rely upon a sense of routine and support from their peers and trusted adults. Our schools are safe places to learn, and our students are looking to the adults in their lives to convey that sense of security.

Thank you for your support of Royal Oak Schools. As we prepare for a return to school on Tuesday, I want to encourage all of us to come together in the face of the Oxford tragedy. I am confident that can happen.

Below please find some helpful resources for you and your family on ways to cope during this difficult time.


Mary Beth Fitzpatrick

Coping Strategies and Resources:

PFA-S Provider Care - Self-care checklist

Wellbeing and Wellness - Pause, Reset, Nourish strategy

7 Tools for Managing Traumatic Stress - 7 strategies including "Window of Tolerance" and 5 Sense

How To Talk To Children About Traumatic Events