Scholastic’s Chairman on the tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT
By Scholastic on December 17th, 2012
In response to Friday’s tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Scholastic Chairman and CEO Dick Robinson penned a heartfelt message to employees. His message is below. Meanwhile, educators and parents can find helpful resources on how to address situations like these with children and families right here on scholastic.com, including links to “quick tips” for teachers, expert advice on talking with kids, and many resources for coping with violence and trauma. We also want to bring your attention to the impromptu “Thank a Teacher” Day — today — that many are celebrating in honor of the educators who gave their lives to protect their students on Friday. Our friend Tech Savvy Mama has more information about it right here.
From Dick Robinson:
Our first thoughts at Scholastic headquarters in New York on hearing the news of the Sandy Hook School shootings on Friday morning, December 14, 2012, were of our own more than 100 employees in Danbury, only five miles away from Newtown, and whether any of our families had children in the school that day. Once we learned that all were safe, we immediately went to work doing what Scholastic has done throughout our nearly 100-year history — offering immediate analysis and support for teachers on how to help the children and families they serve cope with this latest tragedy. Our classroom magazine editors sent emails to teachers with ideas for talking to their classes about the tragedy, and as children return to school on Monday morning their teachers will have a complete rundown of resources on Scholastic.com/teachers, which reaches more than 1.5 million teachers every week, to help them prepare to greet classes of children who will have heard news stories throughout the weekend about the tragic shooting of twenty young children and six teachers in their school.
Sadly, we have considerable experience helping students, families and teachers understand and recover from tragic events. In the late 1980s we helped students deal with the crash of the Challenger spacecraft with a teacher aboard. We provided live audio feeds and written reports from the site of the Oklahoma City bombings in 1992, and we have supported teachers and children through shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, and Aurora, Colorado as well as countless emergencies from floods, hurricanes and other disasters, which can be almost incomprehensible to children. For me, the most dramatic memory was sharing information with Scholastic teachers through our website just after 9/11, reporting events at the World Trade Center only one mile from our office, while also going to my then five-year-old son’s nearby school and bringing him home from first grade where heroic teachers had managed a perfect evacuation and never alarmed the children.
The advice we gave then is still valid for our classrooms today. We do not ignore the events, but especially with younger children, we do not dwell on them. We emphasize that the event is past, that the schools are safe, that we are deeply sorry for the families affected, and we go on working and learning at school.
The event in Newtown, where we have at least 15 teachers who use our magazines and book clubs, was, of all these events, the strongest reminder of the heroism of teachers, as six adults died while protecting their children. This incredible commitment reminds us that our teachers and our schools are the greatest support that children and families can have every single day, and especially in times of tragedy — and that we must not let this event cause us to fortify our schools or board up our classrooms in fear, but rather we must ensure that our schools, and our teachers, can continue to provide students and families with optimism and hope, coupled with practical ideas for ensuring that our schools remain safe places for learning.
It is also true that we need to have a strong national dialogue on guns in or near schools, on the positive help provided by social service and mental health professionals for the children and teachers in our schools, and that we must provide not only safe learning environments but we must also continue to allow schools to be positive, welcoming places for children and families in our communities — places of hope and caring and warmth where we emphasize positive values and provide the skills that will enable children to build the confidence and the competence to realize their own greatest fulfillment as people and contributors to our society.
As we experience another, and perhaps the most emblematic of these situations, Scholastic is proud to have supported generations of teachers and students and families with ideas that will help them do well in school and in society, and we are reminded of the enormous value provided by the teachers who care and support and nurture their children at difficult times. But with the death of a beloved principal and a school psychologist and four caring teachers in the Sandy Hook School, we also ask the political leaders to take action against the presence of assault weapons that are used to kill six year old children so we can take at least one step toward ensuring a society where children and teachers are free to learn without concern for deadly attacks. We must work on ways to mitigate the gun violence that affects some urban children on their way to school every single day, and that now has entered the kindergarten and first grade classrooms where our youngest and most vulnerable children are found. We have continued to count on teachers and public servants to shoulder the responsibility for the safety of our children, but we are not giving them the support they need both through increasing the availability of school health resources and in passing laws that will protect schools and children against gun violence.
Meanwhile, Scholastic will continue to provide the information and ideas that teachers, children, and families need in times of violence and tragedy, but also in the everyday lives of families who are experiencing difficulty, for we know that the way to a better society is to build stronger, more confident young people with the reading and math skills as well as the enthusiasm for learning they need. As always, we are proud to provide the resources to help teachers give hope and direction, especially in these most difficult moments such as a morning of gun violence that killed twenty young children and six teachers in school — a place that is normally dedicated to the highest and best hopes of society.