In the days after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas where 19 students and two teachers were killed, the ripples of fear and trauma reached Brooklyn.
At PS 770 New American Academy in East Flatbush, Principal Jessica Saratovsky held a forum to help process recent events, and share resources on talking to children about what happened.
Above all, Saratovsky said, the forum aimed to help students and parents “come together as a community.”
“Many of us are still processing the tragic murders in Buffalo and California and now the events of Texas occur,” read an email Saratovsky sent to pre-K and elementary school parents. “With every event, our fears grow, our country seems to become more numb, and yet, at P.S. 770 we will continue to show up every day for our students.”
There have been 27 school shootings and over 200 mass shootings with injuries or deaths in the U.S. this year. 2021 ended with 693 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection and research group that gathers information from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily.
“These tragic events are not easy to talk to our young children about,” said the principal. “Our teachers are not going to bring up the events in Texas, but will address the subject if students are aware and express thoughts, feelings or questions about it.”
Saratovsky, herself a mother of two elementary school students, shared resources for parents to best approach the situation. Her advice is to start with a series of questions to learn how much one’s child wants to know and if they have any misconceptions that might need correction by asking tough questions like, “Did you hear anything at school today that was different?” or “Would you like to know more?”
The Child Mind Institute, an organization focused on children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders, offers a guide on how to help children after a traumatic event according to their age. Breathing exercises, letting them know it is normal to experience anger, guilt or sadness and understanding that kids cope in different ways such as wanting to spending time with relatives or by themselves, are some of the recommendations.
The educator included an article from Hadas Their, author, journalist and activist based in Brooklyn, as part of the discussion.
“We are part of a movement that knows we can do better,” writes Their. “Letting this perspective frame conversations —that many of us are working together to right what’s wrong in the world— helps keep both you and your kid from getting sunk in hopelessness.”
As the end of the school year approaches, Saratovsky wanted to assure parents she will be actively participating in making their children feel sheltered.
“I know we will all hug our kids a little bit tighter in the morning as we send them off to school,” wrote the principal. “I know that I will be at the door at 8:15 a.m. with a smile, a hi, a hug or a high five for every student that walks through our door, as I do every day. There will be a sense of sadness for those who no longer walk through their school doors. However, I also know with every smile and hello we can help make our students feel loved and safe.”