Local headmaster reassures parents of safety procedures - FOX 35 News Orlando

Local headmaster reassures parents of safety procedures

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PHOENIX -

Today was a tough day for any parent with kids in school. Across the valley, school administrators were reassuring parents of their safety procedures and preparedness.

But dealing with an incident like this can be difficult for schools.

We talked to Eric Twist, headmaster at the Great Heart Schools, which serves K-5 kids. He explained to FOX 10 how his administration would handle something like what happened in Connecticut.

"It's hard to absorb the tragedy… my initial thoughts as a parent was run down to my two kids in the classroom and hold them and grab them but of course, you immediately think about all the procedures you have in place and training you do and you hope that those are sufficient."

Twist says that some parents have already called him with concerns about safety features.

"We have had phone calls from families and we reminded them that we have lockdown procedures, we practice these procedures, we take teachers and students through drills at all schools, we have code words that tell our staff that we have an internal threat, an external threat."

What else are they telling parents to tell their kids?

"We are telling them this is up to them to decide what is appropriate because of their child's age, and what they would feel comfortable as a family. We did not discuss it today as a school, we will not be discussing it, we don't believe it's appropriate for a school to bring this type of stories in the classroom."

What if a student mentions this in school and puts a teacher on the spot?

"I think in this case a teacher can express their grief or concern but immediately refer them back to their parents," says Twist.

"We really need to protect the sacredness of the classroom and let the classroom be the place where they are focusing on things other than awful tragedies like this one."

So how should parents explain to their kids what happened? We asked a child therapist for some advice on how to help kids cope in a time like this.

"Children need to be reassured that just because it happened over there doesn't mean that it's going to happen here, so as parents we may need to talk to the school," says Cesar Gamez, licensed professional counselor.

"About our child's school crisis response plan, maybe we need to educate our kids about the fact that they are safe, so I think that we need to open the doors to talk about feelings, whether it's anger or sadness, even confusion."

The counselor also says it's not just safety and gun control the country may need to address -- but also mental health issues that could have been involved in the shooting.

Gamez also says there needs to be discussion about behavioral health.

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