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Question of the Week: Have You Talked to Your Kids About the School Shooting?

Did you tell your children? Do you have advice to share with other parents on how to approach this delicate conversation?

The morning of Dec. 14 came as a shock to all parents. We watched news of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut with tears in our eyes and a lump in our throats.

While the rest of us went about our mornings on Friday, 26 innocent lives were lost at a suburban school much like the ones where we send our own children. Many questions were raised throughout that day and over the weekend, not the least of which was: "How do we explain this to our children?"

Counselors, psychiatrists and others have offered ideas for talking to children about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. Social media has been abuzz with parents asking each other, "Will you? If so, how?" Some parents decided it was best to say nothing, while others have struggled with how much to say.

Did you tell your children? Do you have advice to share with other parents on how to approach this delicate conversation?

Erin Ahrens December 17, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I literally researched how to talk to my six and seven year old children. I did not tell them it happened at a school. I told them a man did something very horrible, and he killed people that morning, and many people were sad and scared because nobody understood why he did what he did. I also told them that he died, and that it happened very far away from us. I then told them that I saw that lots of very sad pictures on the computer, since we don't have television, and they asked to see it. I told them that it was only pictures of the "helpers," helping. Just like Fred Rogers spoke of. I explained that they were safe, and that their coaches, teachers, therapists, neighbors, and family are all people who look after them to make sure they feel safe. I asked if they had any questions, and neither one did. We didn't talk about it at home, nor did they hear about it on radio or see disturbing images online. I feel like each parent should give their child(ren) the opportunity to feel safe and secure, and to trust that these random acts of mental illness are just that. Random. And just because we might get hit by a drunk driver, does that mean we fear each time we get in a car? No. And we can't let fear run OR ruin or lives. I sent my son off to school today without a moments hesitation. I kept my daughter home with illness, but wanted her to be there, so that she could be a part of being there, and to be the confidence that is needed in each of our classrooms.
Gayla December 17, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Sounds like you have handled it well Erin, I hope others do as well.
Jake Lilley December 18, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Feeling secure and being secure are two very different things. Our children should be told that they are not safe and these environments are very vulnerable to predators. There is no “magic force field” that protects these schools. Any other answer is less than honest. This is not an issue about "gun rights." This is an issue about "human rights." A man has the natural right to defend his life in any environment. Only when the government denies that right do we invite tragedy. If the teachers had been armed and trained to respond, many lives would have been saved. The real tragedy are "victim disarmament zones" that our laws have created. Victim disarmament zones are environments in which the politicians have declared that we do not have the right to defend our lives; churches and schools in particular. The more victim disarmament zones that we create, the more victims we will have. Which of the following signs, if posted on the entrance to your school would prevent another tragedy?: Sign 1: All weapons prohibited on these premises -or- Sign 2: Staff heavily armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force. Which sign would you post?
Bill Bryan December 18, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Boy did you ever nail it Mr. Lilley!
Dawg December 18, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Bam! Almost verbatim what I told my 12 year old yesterday (as well as discussing what to do if he ever found himself in a threatening situation like what unfolded at the Sandy Hook school). Great post Jake Lilley!
Kay Clark December 19, 2012 at 06:22 PM
If the shooter went in intending to end his massacre with suicide (as it seems most of them do), what makes you think he would have been dissuaded by a sign saying he'd end up dead? Ending up dead was his goal. The real issue isn't guns, it's mental illness. That one is complicated and messy and doesn't have neat catch phrases to throw around.
Jake Lilley December 19, 2012 at 08:38 PM
The motive and the state of mind of the attacker are irrelevant. The fact remains that under our current laws, our government denied those teachers and faculty the right to defend their lives and the lives of their students within that school. We live in a world in which our government has declared that we may defend our lives only in environments of their choosing. Frankly, I find it disgusting that my government should tell me when and where I have the right to defend my life and the lives of my loved ones.
lee Turner December 19, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Well said, Jake!! But you'll never convince the gunphobes who don't seem to understand that a gun is a TOOL to be used for good (self-defense) or evil (murder). The sheeple have been instructed that Guns Cause Crime and the sheeple will not question that because Government is Here To Protect Us and Keep Us Safe . Our Government Cares About Us. I no longer discuss the subject with such morons. You can't fix Stupid.
Bill Bryan December 20, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Armed citizen pulls gun on Oregon mall shooter - Tucson News Now www.tucsonnewsnow.com/.../armed-citizen-pulls-gun-on-oregon-ma...
Frank Jones December 20, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Jake, Lee, and Bill...As a group, you sound like a group of uneducated, cowboy wanna-bes. Your opinion is that we should arm every school teacher, every lunch assistant, administrator, and para-pro is crazy. In your distorted view, if everyone is armed, no psycho-lunatic would dare enter a school with a rifle, handgun, etc. How wrong you are! Psycho-lunatics don't think clearly...kind of like you! So maybe the lunatics would still enter the school, but you think the armed adults would at least be able to defend themselves and the students. True, but teachers are education professionals, not firearm experts. They don't spend hours on the firing range like police and military personnel. They don't go through training scenarios that teach them to keep a cool head. Putting guns into the hands of untrained teachers could actually do more harm. As a country, we have a Columbine-like school shooting once every few years and unfortunately 20-30 are killed. However, inviting literally hundreds of thousands of guns into our schools is asking for trouble. Imagine the number of misplaced guns that would fall into the hands of children; the number of unbalanced teachers who could be armed; the irrational armed parents at parent-teacher meetings. More guns would only invite more killings - accidental or otherwise. Bill...You're an elected official. Shame on you! And FWIW, I grew up with guns and love to shoot but feel no need to carry.
KISS December 20, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Frank, you sound like the naive one here. Of course select officials would need to go through training. Just so you know, it is not against the law to have a gun in your car on school grounds anymore and I know several teachers who carry them in their cars in accordance with the new law. Just sayin!!
Frank Jones December 20, 2012 at 03:26 AM
KISS...I'm not being naive. I'm a realist and the reality is that if there are more "legal" guns in the schools that there will be more accidental shootings. It happens in homes & work places. It will happen in schools. Well meaning teachers will make a mistake and an innocent student or parent will be killed. Teacher thinks a kid is drawing a weapon...Dead kid. Kid finds teacher's gun...Dead kid. We have 10’s of thousands of schools in this country with a hundred million students. One nut-job entered a school last week and performed a horrendous act. Now you and others are overreacting. You want to arm teachers in preparation of a miniscule risk. Out of the hundred million students and teachers, 26 were killed; that’s 0.000026%. And since school shooting don’t occur daily, weekly or even annually, the probability drops even further. You're more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a school shooting. You're more likely to be killed by lightening than in a school shooting. That’s the rational fact! Unfortunately, we have a whiplash mentality. Terrorists attack New York…suspend civil rights and privacy. Psycho shoots students and teachers…arm the teachers. Talk of restricting assault weapons…record sales of assault weapons are reported. Before we act, prudent/wise people should look at the facts and make rational decisions. Unfortunately, there aren't too many prudent/wise people in politics and Bill is a prime example.
Truthseeker December 20, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Frank please respond to the following facts. Mayan Palace Theater, San Antonio, Texas, this week: Jesus Manuel Garcia shoots at a movie theater, a police car and bystanders from the nearby China Garden restaurant; as he enters the movie theater, guns blazing, an armed off-duty cop shoots Garcia four times, stopping the attack. Total dead: Zero. – Winnemucca, Nev., 2008: Ernesto Villagomez opens fire in a crowded restaurant; concealed-carry permit-holder shoots him dead. Total dead: Two Appalachian School of Law, 2002: Crazed immigrant shoots the dean and a professor, then begins shooting students; as he goes for more ammunition, two armed students point their guns at him, allowing a third to tackle him. Total dead: Three. Santee, Calif., 2001: Student begins shooting his classmates — as well as the “trained campus supervisor”; an off-duty cop who happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day points his gun at the shooter, holding him until more police arrive. Total dead: Two. Pearl High School, Mississippi, 1997: After shooting several people at his high school, student heads for the junior high school; assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieves a .45 pistol from his car and points it at the gunman’s head, ending the murder spree. Total dead: Two. Edinboro, Pa., 1998: A student shoots up a junior high school dance being held at a restaurant; restaurant owner pulls out his shotgun and stops the gunman. Total dead: One.
Bill Bryan December 20, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Mr. Jones, Please refrain from telling me what my opinion is. You are the only one in this discussion who has mentioned arming, " every school teacher, every lunch assistant, administrator, and para-pro". You do make some valid points as does Mr. Lilley. There is no guaranteed right or wrong answer and going to either extreme (arm everybody vs arm nobody) is certainly not the answer. In the case of the Oregon mall shooting, we will never know for 100% certain if the man who took aim at the shooter saved lived lives or not; but it seems very likely that he did. Read the articles. The worst school mass murder in our history occured in 1927 in Bath, Michigan (45 lives), was committed by a school employee, and was not done with guns. Read the Wikipedia account. What would have stopped that? I invite you to honestly answer Mr. Lilley's question, "Sign 1: All weapons prohibited on these premises -or- Sign 2: Staff heavily armed and trained. Any attempt to harm children will be met with deadly force. Which sign would you post? Please remember that sign #1 was posted at Sandy Hook. Did it work?
Truthseeker December 20, 2012 at 02:46 PM
A rape victim shot and killed an attacker in Cape Girardeau, MO when he broke into her home to rape her for a second time this week. The 57-year-old woman shot 47-year-old Ronnie W. Preyer, a registered sex offender, in the chest with a shotgun after he cut the power to her apartment and then broke through her locked basement door. 5/13/2011 An intruder who was shot and killed after a confrontation with a Duluth woman in her shower was likely stalking her for days and may have other victims, Gwinnett police said. Police: Woman Shot Intruder 9 Times In Self Defense School Counselor Shoots, Kills Home Intruder The 53-year-old woman, who is also a veteran private school counselor, was alone at the time of the Wednesday morning attack. She lives on East Mount Tabor Circle in Duluth. The woman was getting out of the shower when she was met by a strange man with a kitchen knife, police said. They said there was a struggle in the bathroom, and she fell in the tub. Police later identified the man as Israel Perez Puentes, a Cuban national who lived in Alpharetta. "The male was armed with a kitchen knife, a struggle ensued between the two of them. She fell in the bathtub injuring herself," Gwinnett police spokesman Edwin Ritter said. The woman tried to fight the man off with a shower a rod, and he forced her into her bedroom, police said. They said she told her attacker she had money in the room. But she grabbed a .22-caliber handgun and shot the man nine times, police said.
Frank Jones December 20, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Truthseeker...here is my response: Mayan Palace Theater - Not a school. An armed off-duty cop shot the criminal, not an armed novice. Winnemucca New - Not a school. The criminal was shot while he was reloading. Luckily, the hero didn't miss and kill one of the 300 people in the crowded bar. Imagine if the other bikers had been armed and everyone started shooting. This was a grudge between two families. Appalachian School of Law - Not a elementary, middle or high school. The criminal shot specific victims and fled scene. The two "hero" students were trained police officers, not average Joes carrying weapons. Santee Calif - Two trained police officers were the heros of that day, not an untrained novice. Pearl High School - the hero of the day was a trained US Army commander, not an average Joe. Edinboro, PA - Not a school, but a school function. Hero of the day showed restraint. In most of these cases, the gunman was done shooting by the time anyone could act. In most of these cases, trained professional law enforcement or military individuals were the heros. You'll disagree with me but I stand by my decision that arming teachers is a bad idea. The risk of school shootings is very very remote. This risk of unintentional shootings if legal guns are prevalent in schools is too great.
Frank Jones December 20, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Mr. Bryan...The reason you would need to arm every adult at the school is that in order to "protect" students, the protector would need to be where the students are. Thirty students in a room, thirty dead students unless that teacher is armed. 200 kids in the lunch room, 200 students dead unless there is an armed teacher in the room. Sixty kids in PE, sixty kids dead unless the PE teacher has a gun. If you're going to arm a few teachers, then the vast majority of the students won't be protected. Even so, if the psycho, insane, or trouble gunman knows that teachers may be armed, guess who gets shot first? That's right...The teachers, then the kids. Oh, and by the way, if a kid doesn't have a gun, he could always surprise the teacher and take the teacher's gun...Then kill students. In respect to your sign questions...Neither sign matters as gunmen on a mission to kill someone aren't thinking clearly and many of them are either planning on being shot or to commit suicide when they're done. I suggest that you take a good long look at the possible short-comings of your idea. As an elected official, you owe us the respect of showing proper reflection and understanding of issues. Not rash opinions & decisions.
Bill Bryan December 20, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Frank, What's the deal with you? First you tell me what my opinion is then you criticize my "idea" when I have not put forth an idea or even a suggestion for a solution. To my knowledge you and me don't even know each other yet you seem to have some sort of grudge against me. What ever your personal problem is with me, it is clearly hampering your ability to think clearly.
Frank Jones December 20, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Mr. Bryan...We've never met and I do not have any sort of grudge with you. I merely disagree with you. Your "idea" that I don't agree with is your support of Mr. Lilley's assertion that teachers should be armed so they can defend themselves. When you replied to Mr. Lilley, "Boy did you ever nail it Mr. Lilley!" you were offering your explicit support of that plan. Later, you offered a link for titled "Armed citizen pulls gun on Oregon mall shooter - Tucson News Now" further offering your belief that citizens should be armed and since this is a blog about the school shooting, it is implied that you're referring to teachers. Mr. Bryan, you can try to backpeddle but your comments indicate that you do support the arming of teachers and allowing all adults to carry weapons onto school property. I do not support that notion and will vote against any politician who supports your position. Granted we live in North Georgia and you may be looking for a certain vote...I'm sure you'll get it but you won't get mine or those of my family.
Mike payne December 20, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Frank Jones gets on this board and trolls all day long. He does this on every single subject.
Chrisann Moseley December 20, 2012 at 07:38 PM
I 100% agree with you, Mr. Lilley. I believe that, at the ONLY entrance to a school, within the first 300 meters, every person in every office should have a locked and loaded firearm. Unfortunately, some people would die. Fortunately, less people would have to die.
r patton December 20, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Hey Frank, Your "theory" doesn't hold water. United States Maries were clerks, truck drivers etc until they became Marines. And, according to the Justice Dept., there are school attacks every 2 or 3 weeks. Check it out.
Jim Beam December 20, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Personal attacks are always the first sign of a lost debate. Once again, this is the tactic resorted to by Frank Jones. Still smarting over that landslide A1 victory, Frankie?
Frank Jones December 21, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Steely...Mr. Bryan is an elected official and in my opinion he's showing reaction without reason as opposed to reason then reaction. There is no personal attack here. For you to think otherwise is interesting.
Frank Jones December 21, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Mike...Here's the deal. I saw a post and disagreed with it. I posted a rebuttal and made several opposing arguments. The others posted replies asking for futher comment...I obliged. Now I'm call a troll. Glad to see you offering something intelligent to the conversation.
Frank Jones December 21, 2012 at 01:47 AM
R Patton...Please post a link to the Justice Dept stats. I'd be interested in looking at the information as would others.
Jake Lilley December 21, 2012 at 02:00 AM
POLL: Arm Teachers? MN legislator says yes, Gov. Dayton says no, but a Mpls. school staffer took matters into her own hands and brought a .357 Magnum to school. Should teachers bear arms? http://stmichael.patch.com/articles/poll-arm-teachers-367590ac#poll_63488
Jim Beam December 21, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Frank, for you to not think that "Psycho-lunatics don't think clearly...kind of like you!" is a personal attack is interesting. Is that what passes for 'civil debate' under the Jones roof? hypocrisy, thy name is Frank Jones. <-- I've typed this before - deja vu all over again!
Frank Jones December 21, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Steely...My post was to Jake, Lee, & Bill...so get off my back. My assertion that they aren't thinking clearly is valid. Arming teachers and allowing parents to bring guns into schools is a bad idea. These individuals obviously haven't thought it through and if they have, that's even more scary. Lastly, Bill is a gov't official and I expect more of him.
Always an Emerson girl! December 23, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Heard a lady on a talk show Friday say if teachers/school administrators were armed at Sandy Hook maybe 'only' two people would have been killed instead of the 26 that were. I just don't understand people who think irrationally although I do understand the mindset (I think); however, if 'only' two people were killed, try making the families of those 'only' 2 people feel better. You would not be able to. People kill me (no pun intended) trying to rationalize what cannot be rationalized.

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