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December 14, 2012

Local grief expert provides tips on talking to children about mass killing

State school safety director, Berea superintendent discuss shooting

RICHMOND — Madison County students did not hear gunshots Friday nor did they see blood on their school floor, but it is very likely that many came home with questions, said Nora Brashear, bereavement coordinator for Hospice Care Plus.

“You can start by asking your child if he or she had any reaction to it,” she said. “I imagine that people will have their televisions on and children will see and hear it.”

Even though mass shootings have been more frequent in the news during the past 10-15 years, “I think it’s true to say that it’s still a rare thing,” Brashear said. “Try to reassure your child that they are safe.”

The child’s age and level of maturity should be taken into consideration when speaking with them about Friday’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

“If you children bring it up, the worst thing you can do is ignore it,” she said. “Talk to your children about their fears.”

Jon Akers, executive director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety, said he will be paying close attention to the aftermath of Friday’s horrific event.

“I’m going to be very curious as to what precautions the school had made in advance to try and deal with an active shooter,” Akers said. “If it weren’t for the grace of God, that could have happened right here in Kentucky”

State statute now requires that all Kentucky public schools do a lockdown drill at least once a year.

“During the lockdown, teachers lock the doors, they pull the shades, turn off the lights and put the children next to a wall where they are out of the line of sight. The teachers are trained not to open the doors until a law enforcement officer comes by with a master key. We’ve learned a little something from every single one of these situations.”

Mike Hogg, superintendent for Berea Community Schools, said Friday his heart was heavy for those families who sent their children to school “and now they’re not coming home,” he said. “I have two daughters, and the thought that they might not come home today, that’s a thought I can’t fathom.”

Guidance counselors will be available next week for any student who would like to talk about their feelings about the Connecticut shooting, he said.

Information about plans to provide extra support next week to Madison County Public School students was not available at press time.

“I’ll be meeting with our administrative team Sunday to see if there are any gaps in our school’s safety,” he said. “The one thing we have to maintain is that we can’t let the bad guys win.”

“If you do that, then those sick, evil people win and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.

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