Dr. Kenneth Chris Hurst, superintendent of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD), released the following statement in reaction to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday:
Dear WCCUSD Community,
We are devastated by the news about the elementary school shooting in Texas and the senseless loss of life. As educators, staff and families who make up our learning community, it is difficult to comprehend how something like this can happen.
In the wake of this deadly mass shooting, we know many educators may be left grappling with how to explain this act of violence to students. School should be a safe place, and is a setting where kids spend the majority of their days. When a shooting happens at school, it compromises our view of safety, and it is important that we do what we can to support our students, families, and educators. We are a community and we will need each other to heal.
In situations such as these, consider the following:
- Parents and educators should create safe places for youth to discuss their feelings, and parents and teachers should be willing and open to discussion.
- Help children identify their feelings, and adults should serve as models.
- Give youth reassuring facts about their safety.
- Maintain routines.
- Adapt the conversation based on the age of the child.
- Validate all feelings.
- Avoid overexposure of media.
- Continue to check in to see how youth are coping and seek help if necessary.
Here are some resources to support:
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Mass Violence Resources
- NASP: Talking to Kids about Violence
- Child Mind Institute: Helping Children Cope
- Coping in the Aftermath of a Shooting
I also want to let you know about what we are doing to keep our schools safe. We recently held two community safety forums where we outlined our district safety plans to the community and received valuable feedback.
For the remainder of the school year, we will be reinforcing operations plans with principals ensuring all sites have a single point of entry. Additional district safety personnel are also being made available to sites on an as needed basis, and we are dispatching district personnel to sites as well.
Throughout the school year, our safety team leads staff at each school through an active shooter presentation, which is a CDE requirement.
Some of the immediate action steps we have taken recently include:
- Creating a communication matrix for school leaders to follow during an incident on campus.
- Developing site-specific checklists for ongoing safety monitoring.
- Working with Campus Security Specialists on proper coverage and visibility.
- Ensuring everyone on campus wears a lanyard ID.
- Identifying vulnerable youth for immediate behavioral and mental health support.
- Random bag and locker checks as needed.
- Making sure sites follow visitor policy and ensure everyone on campus is identified and has a pass to be on campus.
Our schools are communities, places where young people go to learn and thrive, and build for their future. Where they deserve to feel safe and protected. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure our schools are safe places to learn.
Dr. Kenneth Chris Hurst