SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Teachers never know what role they might have to play in a given day, from providing safety to their students to watching out for their mental health, the president of the San Diego Education Association said Friday in reference to the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school.
The gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killed 20 students and six adult victims. The shooter also died.
"Teachers, their roles don't stop as (an instructor),'' Bill Freeman said. "Kids look to teachers as parents in some cases, counselors in some cases; and teachers take those roles on because they really know these kids.''
The teachers union boss said the San Diego Unified School District is well-prepared for an emergency.
"Let's pray you never have to use them, but we're prepared to execute emergency procedures for whatever might occur,'' Freeman said. He said his heart went out to the families of the victims, and predicted it could take years for the community to recover.
Superintendent Bill Kowba issued a statement to assure parents and the community that SDUSD would continue to protect its students and give them a sense of safety and well-being as they coped to understand the tragedy in Connecticut.
"Unfortunately in our society, there are no absolute safe havens from senseless acts of violence,'' Kowba said. "But our schools are safe environments where our students grow and learn each school day under the guidance of dedicated and caring teachers and school staff.''
He said all SDUSD schools had safety plans that covered contingencies, which district officials frequently review. District staff members were trained to ensure students' safety, Kowba said.
The district's police department also monitors campus safety, and school police along with school staff would have a heightened awareness of security issues during this time, Kowba said.
Counselors and crisis response teams would also be available to provide guidance to principals in the coming days to support students' emotional needs.
Counseling professionals recommended parents encourage their children to talk about their thoughts and feelings related to the incident, reassure them of their own health and safety and to limit their television viewing since the tragedy would receive extensive coverage, Kowba said.
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward said the education system has an unspoken agreement with parents to keep their children safe and send them home a little smarter.
"All of us who work with children take our responsibility to keep them safe very seriously,'' Ward said. "It's at the heart and soul of everything we do. You can't educate children without them being safe. As this morning's
incident shows, sometimes, in spite of our best intentions, evil forces upend our unspoken agreement.''
Ward encouraged parents to speak with their children about the importance of alerting the proper authorities if they see or hear something suspicious on or near their campuses.
He said local school administrators will review safety plans and, along with counselors, discuss the incident with students and answer their questions.