February 15, 2018

Dear MMSD Community,

I wanted to reach out to you in the wake of the terrible events in Florida yesterday. I know that many of us are feeling sadness, anger or fear about what happened. Please know that our focus is always on school safety, and we are always here to support you.

I also know that an event like this prompts questions for many of us about safety in our own schools, as well as how to support our children. I am hoping to provide you with additional resources and information to help answer those questions.

School Safety Procedures

As a school district, we know that safety has to be our top priority. We have strong safety systems in place, and we also continuously review and improve those systems. Please let your principal know if you have questions or concerns about your child’s school. Some of our key safety procedures and best practices include:

  • On-going training and review of MMSD Emergency Procedure, including regular drills that are practiced each semester and ongoing staff training.
  • Ensuring safe procedures for school visitors, where visitors identify themselves and register with the school office upon arrival.
  • Encourage communication amongst staff, student and families around potential threats to school safety.  
  • Security investments in our school facilities like surveillance cameras and Welcome Centers.
  • Strong partnership with the Madison Police Department when any assistance is needed.
  • School safety plans and school-based Crisis Response Teams.

We are fortunate to have experienced school safety personnel, dedicated resources and community-wide support systems to ensure the wellbeing and mental health of our children and their schools. Any time we hear of an incident like this, it gives us another reason to continuously review our systems and ensure they are incredibly strong.

Tips for Parents to Support Children

How can I help my children cope?

  1. Remain calm and reassuring. Children, especially younger children, take their cues from adults. Model coping through calm reactions, even though you may be stressed.
  2. Keep routines as consistent as possible. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote wellness.
  3. Answer questions openly and honestly (developmentally appropriate). Allow children to discuss their feelings and concerns. Let them know you will listen to their concerns and questions. People feel differently, and all kinds of emotions are normal.
  4. Reassure your younger children, especially at bedtime, that steps are being taken to take care of them. Talk with your children about what they can do at home or at school when they are feeling unsafe.
  5. Also reassure adolescents and teens, and allow opportunities for them to contribute in responding to the crisis or community needs if they are interested. This builds a sense of empowerment.
  6. Monitor television and internet viewing. While it is important for teens and adolescents to have access to news reports, it is recommended that they not engage in extensive media coverage of violence-related events. Younger children should have limited exposure to media and adult conversations about crisis and disaster.
  7. Engage in healthy habits. Role model and provide opportunity for taking care of ourselves (physical activity, eating well, getting enough sleep).

School Supports for Children and Youth

If your child is having difficulty with their feelings, seek help. MMSD schools and programs have Student Services Staff (nurse, counselor, social workers, psychologists and some parent liaisons) who can provide help for your child. They are available to assist students in dealing with tragedy or crisis, and are prepared to support students who are struggling with this and other incidents. If families are wondering where to turn first for help in a school building, your child’s teacher is a good place to start. They can help connect you with the support services in your child’s school, or in the district. In addition to school support staff, physicians, therapists, faith-based and other community support persons are also appropriate places to turn.

If you have any questions or need any assistance, please reach out.


Jennifer Cheatham