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Boston school superintendent reassures parents that students are safe

Posted by Your Town  December 14, 2012 03:51 PM

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It's always tough to find a parking spot during dismissal time at the Warren-Prescott School in Charlestown. On Friday, it was even tougher.

As news of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut spread around the world, parents crowded outside the school, waiting expectantly to squeeze their young ones.

"I'm completely horrified and disgusted," Bob Carr said as he waited for his three daughters. "This certainly makes me appreciate them more, and they'll certainly get a stronger hug and kiss from me today."

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson was at the school, speaking with parents and media, hoping to assure them that school continues to be a safe place.

"The main message is to reassure them that their children are safe," Johnson said. "We want their children to not be fearful of coming to school, and we're worried that the children may absorb too much of the media coverage."

Johnson emphasized that the school system has numerous safety protocols in place, a strong school police department, and a close working relationship with the Boston Police, who are stationed at every middle school and high school. All school doors are locked and monitored by cameras, and no one can be admitted without pressing a buzzer, she said.

In speaking with parents, Johnson said she heard a theme that is being repeated everywhere: What would motivate any adult to take their anger out on children?

"You saw the parents staying longer in the schoolyard, mingling with other parents, and just trying to make sense of it," Johnson said. "It doesn't make any sense."

For parents, it was a day of thoughts and prayers for the Connecticut families, and of allowing their mind to go to that dark place and ask what if it were their school, what if it were their children.

"You just have that feeling: What if it happened you?" said Elizabeth Baron, who was waiting to pick up her first grader. "It's just too horrible to think about."

Baron was in a small group of parents discussing whether or not it was a subject they would discuss with their children. There was concern that they were too young to process.

"I don't know how you talk about it," said Heather Jenkins, who has a first- and second-grader at the school. "They're so little."

Johnson, who was consoling faculty, including one despondent kindergarten teacher, said the school will have counselors available if students need to talk. But she said the school will not be addressing the shooting with their students, and will instead leave that decision to parents.

"If the students bring it up, parents should be open and honest," she said. "But the main thing is to assure them that they're safe, and encourage them to talk about it if they are concerned. Parents need to be available, and to watch and observe their children for anything unusual about their response or behavior."

Stephanie Depradine, the mother of a fifth- and third-grader, said that, unfortunately, tragic things happen all the time, and she would continue to tell her children what she always does: "Mom's here. Mom's here to keep you safe."

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