Portland schools increase police coverage, produce video for parents in aftermath of Conn. shooting

Portland Public Schools have been busy in the days since a disturbed gunman opened fire at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school and killed 27 people, including himself and 20 children, at the site Friday.

Portland School Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk lights a candle at the start of a vigil in Monument Square on Sunday night Dec. 16, 2012. The vigil was organized by Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence in response to the Connecticut school shooting Friday. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk, who is in his first semester on the job, issued a statement in reaction on Friday and spoke again at a vigil Sunday night about the immense grief local educators and families share with their Newtown counterparts.

Today, Caulk issued another statement on the topic, this time talking about the resources available for students who may be reeling from the news of the Friday shooting and how Portland has prepared for such an attack thus far:

We are returning to a normal routine in the Portland Public Schools today in  the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. Providing a calm, dependable environment at school is the best way that we can help our students through this tragedy. We ask that the media respect that goal and allow our staff to focus on the children.

Our school social workers will provide support for any students who need it.  We also have resources available for employees who need support. Our district has emergency plans in place for all of our buildings. We will increase police patrols at our elementary schools this week.

The district also reached out to provide help to parents who may be struggling to explain to their kids what transpired in Newtown. In the video, produced by Portland Public Schools, Sophie Payson, who coordinates the district’s social workers, stresses the importance of listening to children and looking for any changes in their behavior.

Says Payson in the video:

Some people will feel fear, and their attitudes or behaviors might change. For example, in a high school, we might see someone acting out a little more, and I think instead of coming down on that behavior, we need to remember and understand that that’s probably because of their fears, and that’s probably how they’re dealing with that.

You can watch the video, and all of the advice Payson has for teachers and parents, below:

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.