How Educators, Parents Should Talk to Children About Las Vegas Shooting

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Vermont school leaders are prepared to discuss the tragic shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night, which killed 59 people and injured more than 500 people, if students need help.


“Something like this, a traumatic event, not even associated with a particular person or a community, can be triggering for some people and some students,” said Bobby Riley, the principal at Burlington’s Integrated Arts Academy.


More than three hundred preschool through 5th graders attend school at Integrated Arts Academy.


He says, so far, students have not brought up the devastating shooting, though he did send an email to staff reminding them how to have discussions about safe schools.


He remembers a lot of conversations held between students and faculty after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.


“The most important thing I think is simplicity, very little details,” he said. “Just talking about how sometimes bad things happen, but there's lots of good in the world and you're safe in this community."


“I expect we'll be talking about it tonight,” said Abbey Duke, a Burlington mother of two young daughters, on Tuesday.


Duke says, she plans to listen.


“Ask them 'what have you heard?' 'what do you think?' Just try to talk to them about it and just try to be as obvious as I can and just let them know that we're there for them,” she said.


“Age matters a lot,” said Dr. David Rettew, a child psychiatrist at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital.


Dr. Rettew says if your child is in kindergarten through early elementary school and has not heard about the shooting, it’s best to keep it that way.  


For students, perhaps fifth grade and on, listen, ask questions and reassure them about their safety.


“It might be important to shape the conversation about the people who risked their lives to be with somebody else, to pull people out of danger to get them into hospitals and that I think is a really important message that easily gets lost,” said Dr. Rettew.


School officials at Essex High School did bring up the shooting during Tuesday's school day.


We're told the principal read a brief statement, followed by a moment of silence.


The Agency of Education has posted these memos about how teachers should respond to national tragedies or events:

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