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'Don't instill fear': Schools helping children and teens cope with news of Uvalde shooting

A police car sits outside of Mullen Hall Elementary School in Falmouth on Wednesday.
Liz Lerner
A police car sits outside of Mullen-Hall Elementary School in Falmouth on Wednesday.

Cape Cod schools have been finding ways to respond to Tuesday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

In Harwich, at Monomoy Regional High School, teachers led discussions at the beginning of the day on Wednesday for students who wanted to talk.

“Students are going to be in different places,” said the principal, Jennifer Police. “So, some are going to want to talk, and for some students, they will withdraw, and they will save the conversation for when they get home.”

Sometimes it’s the adults who are more upset, she said, because today’s students have lived with news of school shootings for their whole lives.

“I think our students, unfortunately and sadly, have started to normalize it as part of the fabric of what they're used to,” she said.

For younger children, Wellfleet-based therapist Dikke Hansen said parents should let children’s questions drive their response.

“The key, to me, is allow the space — allow their fears and worries to be heard and tended to, but don't make it worse by instilling fear,” she said.

Answer questions honestly, without volunteering too many details, she said.

When it comes to teens, Police said it’s hard to protect them from constant social media posts about violence around the world.

“While yes, they are 14 to 18 years old, they are overexposed,” she said. “That's the reality. And it's not just about today's shooting. It's about everything.”

School counselors are available for students who want to talk one-on-one, she said.

Some local schools had a police presence on Wednesday, the day following the shooting. In the Monomoy district, police were stationed at each building to reassure children, families and staff, according to Superintendent Scott Carpenter.

The shooting in Texas on Tuesday left 19 students and two teachers dead after an 18-year-old entered Robb Elementary School brandishing a semi-automatic rifle. He was shot and killed by law enforcement at the scene.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.