Feeling safe priority after 15 March traumatic events

By Lesley Murrihy | Posted: Monday March 18, 2019

This article outlines the approach we are taking this week to ensure students feel safe at Amesbury School. It also outlines a plan by year 6 students to show that we stand with those most affected by the tragedy.

Kia ora te whanau

It was a great privilege to attend the vigil at Basin Reserve yesterday evening. What a great show of solidarity it was, as so many people of all races and creeds stood with our Muslim community and denounced the terrorist attack and sent the message that “they are us”. However, what stood out for me was the grace and dignity that was shown by those representing the Muslim community at the vigil. It was truly humbling to be there. Urs and I had earlier in the day been to see the documentary about Celia Lashlie, so for us it really was a day of deep reflection.

After contacting you on Friday night, I would like to follow up with a little bit of detail about how we are responding to the attack on Friday with our students.

I met with teachers this morning and talked through the approaches that have been recommended by psychologists such as Nathan Wallis.

· We do not want to add to possible trauma or “hype it up” by focusing on the events if students do not feel the need to talk about it.

· However, neither do we want to avoid talking about it, if it comes up with our students.

· We will not allow talk to focus on the traumatic details of the attack, but will quickly move any conversation towards focusing on what we can celebrate and what will make kids feel safe – e.g. how quickly it was contained, how the whole world is showing love, how prepared we are as a school with all our drills for emergencies etc., etc.

· We will validate students’ feelings and be vigilant of their socio-emotional needs.

· We will keep routines as normal as possible, and the environment as calm as possible, but we will be flexible - if there seems to be a need to stop and talk about the attack, we will.

· Our greatest priority is to ensure children feel that the school is a safe place for them.

· We will be particularly aware of our year 6 students because they are at an age where they may be particularly vulnerable to the many forms of grief.

One final strategy to assist children in such circumstances is to get them into proactive mode by focusing on things that are within their power to do that might help the situation. As a result, I met with a group of 17 year 6 students who are keen to do something proactive. Together, they have decided that they want the school to have a Memorial Day this Friday, 22nd March in which we:

i. Raise funds for the families of those most affected by the attack. One student suggested that we should pass the funds onto our local Muslim community to distribute because they would have a better idea than we would about what the funds would be needed for.

ii. Students to wear white (worn at Muslim funerals) or special cultural colours of their own culture. One student suggested this “to recognise our cultural diversity”.

iii. Create a LOVE Wall at the hall end of the netball court to send messages of LOVE to those most affected by the attack. This will be put up over Friday morning.

At this point in time, the fundraising plan is for:

I. Students to bring a gold coin donation for the mufti day. We would like this to be out of each student’s own money box. One child told us that he has 10 cents to his name, so we suggested that he organise to do a job with his parents and earn the money.

II. We will have a fundraising sausage sizzle for lunch on Friday with chicken, gluten free and vegetarian sausages as well as beef sausages. Orders are to be placed via the school shop by 3pm, Thursday. To place your child's order, please select "Sausage Sizzle" from the home page of the online shop. We appreciate your support of this fundraising effort.

III. Students can bring money to purchase baking and any other goods we end up with on the sale table at morning tea time.

We will send out more information about this in the middle of the week.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, queries or concerns. Urs and I are very happy to talk with you or respond to emails.

As-salamu ‘alaykum – Peace be upon you.