“Let alone the little children, and cease hindering them to come to Me; for of such is the kingdom of the heavens." And He laid His hands upon them... (Mt. 19:14-15)
Tragic news is set before us every day by the ever-present news media. Bombings, gang shootings, child abuse, starving refugees, massive floods. So much, so often, that we could get inured to it. But some days there is news that demands deeper attention, deeper mourning, a more sustained search for solace.
December 14, 2012. A Breaking News alert caught my eye while I was at my computer on a teleconference call, a report of a “massive school shooting in Connecticut.” I casually mentioned it the conferences, then when the call ended, I turned on the TV news. Only in extremely exceptional circumstances do I ever watch TV during the day; the last time was in 2001 –the terrorist attack on the United States that resulted in the tragic death of all those victims and left such untoward psycho-spiritual aftermath. For the rest of that day I continued to watch the news and followed breaking developments on internet media.
Just as on the day of the 2001 terrorist attack, I had, and still have, no adequate words to describe my emotions as I saw the overwhelming grief of those in the midst of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, CT. Of course, the most emotionally and spiritual scarred are those closest to the incident - the parents, families and friends of the 1st grade children and the school personnel who were killed. But also not to be forgotten are the grief reactions of the first responders. I thought to myself that if I feel so deeply hurt by seeing the reports of the incident, I cannot imagine the depths of anguish suffered by those actually at the scene. The media coverage of frightened children, parents and teachers and the aghast first responders, the fire, first aide, and police personnel, and even of the newscasters themselves was so graphic.
A special spiritual trauma since it was when we were preparing to celebrate the Birth of the Prince of Peace
In preparation for the birth of Christ we are supposed to be awaiting the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah (9:6): "For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, Prince of Peace." A slaughter of the innocents is accompanying the Birth of the Prince of Peace this year as it was during the time of Christ. St. Matthew tells us: "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” Saint Bede the Venerable tells us that this [Rachel is said to have bewailed her children, and did not wish to be consoled] "signifies that the Church bewails the removal of the saints [innocents] from this world," but she does not wish to be consoled in such a way that those who have overcome the world by death should return again with her to bear the strife of he world for surely they should not be called back into the world from whose hardships they have once escaped to Christ for their crowning.” *(The Orthodox New Testament, 2004). (Mt. 2: 17-18 That is, in such a way that death is not seen as victorious over life [even though it] continues to bring strife to the world. This year we added to our Nativity preparation prayers "May their memory be eternal."
During the Nativity Season we also cry out the angelic hymn: "Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will." (Lk 2:14). Thus, indeed, anyone of "good will" will share in this grief in some manner, shape or form. Many average American citizens and many people worldwide were weeping that day and in subsequent days. Who can forget the President of our country responding as a father as he wept during his initial White House briefing on the evening of December 14.
Applying the words of St. Paul about all who make up the Body of Christ to all mankind being made in God's image
St. Paul told the Romans (12:5): "So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Then St. Paul goes on to tell them in very practical terms what this means: "Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep." (Rm 12: 15). That we are to extend love to all mankind, and how this should lead us to respond to others, comes from Jesus, the Logos, the Word, Himself. Did Jesus not tell us: “Verily I say to you, insofar as ye did it not to one of the least of these, neither did ye do it to Me.” (Mt. 25:45) So my spiritual task, as, indeed , that of all men of good will across our nation and across the world, is to offer the true meaning of Godly grief to those directly and indirectly touched by this horrific shooting.. As Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain counsels (Ageloglou. 1998): "It is our duty to make the pain of others our own."
The Prophet Jeremiah
Also, during this tragic period, the Prophet Jeremiah comes to mind. Why Jeremiah? Jeremiah, the Old Testament Prophet, was called by God to preach to His Chosen people of the First Covenant around 626 BC, a time of tribulation that followed on a time of pagan worship among His peoplei. About a year after Josiah, king of Judah, (641– 609 BC) had turned the nation from the widespread idolatrous practices of the previous kings of Judah toward repentance, the people of God turned again to pagan practices. (Josiah is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus as recorded by St. Matthew (1: 10- 11)). The Hebrew people’s failure to heed the Prophet's words was followed by the destruction of Jerusalem (598-588 BC) and the subsequent Babylonian exile. Of these catastrophes the Prophet Jeremiah writes:
For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and delivered him out of the hand of one that was mightier than he. And they shall come, and shall give praise in mount Sion: and they shall flow together to the good things of the Lord, for the corn, and wine, and oil, and the increase of cattle and herds, and their soul shall be as a watered garden, and they shall be hungry no more. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, the young men and old men together: and I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them joyful after their sorrow. And I will fill the soul of the priests with fatness: and my people shall be filled with my good things, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not. (Jeremiah 31: 11-15).
The Prophet Jeremiah's words show that with God’s help we can turn our earthy and very human grieving into a Godly grief. 'Zion' is an alternate name for the Heavenly City Jerusalem. But more importantly, for the Hebrew people, Zion refers to the Temple Mount, the seat of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and what is its center— the sanctuary. Morelli (2010) wrote:
Holy of Holies in Solomon's Temple Although God is everywhere present, the sanctuary also represents the Kingdom of God, His special dwelling place. Recall God's command to Moses: "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." (Ex 25: 8); of which St. Paul told the Hebrews (9:3): “Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies." It is in the Holy of Holies that the Ark of the Covenant was placed. The account of Jeremiah the Prophet:
"Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim . . . in the ark [were] the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt . . . so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1Kgs 8: 5-6,9,11)."
The lament of the psalmist (136: 1-4) over losing the sanctuary of God can easily be seen as a true, Godly grief: "Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Zion: On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments. For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs. And they that carried us away, said: Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten." So, too, let us look at the loss of the innocents and their caretakers in Sandy Hook, and any such type loss anywhere in the world, as the loss of someone we are called on to love with a Godly love because they, and we, are all made in God's image and called to be like Him.
The origins of brokenness in the world – source of grief
The first recorded murder in Old Testament Sacred Scripture was among Adam and Eve's sons, Cain and Abel (Gn. 4). We know that it was due to jealousy that Cain slew his brother Abel. But what weapons did they have? Well, the account in Genesis Chapter 4 is exceedingly sparse in information, it reads:
And it came to pass after many days, that Cain offered, of the fruits of the earth, gifts to the Lord. Abel also offered of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat: and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offerings. But to Cain and his offerings he had no respect: and Cain was exceedingly angry, and his countenance fell.
And the Lord said to him: Why art thou angry? and why is The Sacrifice of Abel thy countenance fallen? If thou do well, shalt thou not receive? but if ill, shall not sin forthwith be present at the door? but the lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it. And Cain said to Abel his brother: Let us go forth abroad. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him."(Gn 4:3-8)
The murder of the innocents in Sandy Hook and their caretakers was described by the media in so graphic terms, with .223 and 9mm bullets tearing through their bodies, a scene so horrifically vivid that the evacuating children and even teachers were asked to close their eyes. In the days of our first ancestors there were no assault rifles and pistols, but the killing of Abel by his brother would have been equally dreadfully graphic.
“ slew him." Very sanitized! But let us look to history and archeology to conjecture what the weapons of Cain's murder of Abel might have been. They would have been made out of stone. Nonetheless, still deadly and sharp; a knife, a sword or a spear would have been common. If any of my readers, have, God forbid (I give this vivid word image for educational purposes), ever seen a body mutilated by a blade of any kind, they know that it can be as gory as a body punctured by bullets. So, not only was brokenness or separation of man from God seen in the pride and disobedience of Adam and Eve, but now we see such brokenness extendsing to the horrific murder of one's brother brought on by another passion, in this case, envy. Eve and Adam must have mourned over this evidence of brokenness, though there is no direct mention of that in the Genesis account of the murder and God’s confronting of Cain, only a hint in Genesis 4:25, when Eve rejoices over the birth of Seth.
Spiritual Healing of Brokenness
Our Eastern Church Fathers teach us that in brokenness, however, Godly love can emerge. The brokenness in the world, often a source of despair, can be transformed into an opportunity, in imitation of Christ, to empty (kenosis) ourselves from our own self-love, to “put on Christ” - an emptying that reaches fulfillment in love towards God and neighbor. Indeed, thousands of loving Americans and countless others, nation and world-wide, lovingly and fervently prayed for the victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre and their families as well as for the other victims of such evil and for their families. Rightly do we storm the throne of God, where the Son and the Holy Spirit are seated with Father, with our prayers for these innocents, for their loving families and friends as well as for the perpetrator of this slaughter.
Pray for the sinner?
Many have heard the expression 'hate the sin but love the sinner' and think it is a statement in Sacred Scripture. These words do not appear in Scripture but the spirit of them does reflect the teachings of Christ. St. John the Evangelist informs us (Rev. 2: 6) of what Jesus told him, through the mouth of His angel about the nefarious works of a group, the Nicolaitians, who had left the early Church: “. . . you hate the deeds. . .which I also hate”. Surely all people of "good will" deplore and lament the horrific shooting in Newtown, CT. Similar feelings about such opprobrious deeds against children and anyone throughout the world will also be hated. Unfortunately, such criminal actions demonstrate the extreme sinful brokenness mankind is capable of. Any individual is made in God's image and should never be besmirched as a person.
Spiritual Healing after Sandy Hook
Praying for someone who has offended us may be both the first act of forgiveness some may be capable of in the beginning of the forgiveness process, and at the same time lead to a deeper level of forgiveness and healing of the residue of the conflict. (Morelli, 2007b). However, prayer for one who has offended us or who has committed such hideous deeds has to conform to the love that God has for all of us. All prayer for forgiveness must be done with purity of heart and with the fullness of God’s love. This is to say, we must pray that they reach out to God, glorify His Holy Name and in turn that God embrace them in His Bosom. It is so easy to pray with conditional or impure prayer: “I will only forgive if the other person fulfills some condition.” This may be that they ask or beg forgiveness. It may be that a failure to pray for forgiveness is a form or retribution toward the offender. Not to forgive may be an act of vengeance on our part. We could even go further and say, or pray: “God send them to hell.” To do this would be to forget the spiritual insight of our Orthodox Christian Church Father, St. Silouan the Athonite. To someone who "declared with evident satisfaction that 'God will punish all [sinners]. They will burn in everlasting fire,'" St. Silouan replied: "Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there you looked down and saw someone burning in hell-fire - would you feel happy?" "It can't be helped. It would be their own fault,” [was the response]. The Staretz [spiritual Elder] answered him in a sorrowful countenance. "Love could not bear that," he said. "We must pray for all."” (Sophrony, 1999)
Prayer and Psychological Healing
Interestingly, a recent psychological study (Lambert, et. al. 2010) found that prayer for one who has offended us would increase selfless concern for others and simultaneously enhance forgiveness. In part, the researchers explain that the finding that forgiveness is healing is based on focusing on ‘shared common goals.’ For the Orthodox Christian these results should not be surprising, for, as St. Paul tells us of our common goal, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. . . .” (1Th 5:9).
Now, in the spirit of St. Maximus the Confessor, who tells us that grace is based on nature, let me convey some of what has come out of behavioral mental health scientific research that we can sanctify by employing in synergy with our commitment to Christ and His Church. My suggestions below about intervention with children and adolescents exposed to trauma, such as the Sandy Hook School Massacre, either directly or by media coverage, is a compilation I extracted from an outstanding resource the National Institute of Mental Health-National Child Traumatic Stress Networkii, as well using previous articles I have written on talking to childreniii.
Talking to Children about the Shooting
Parents and children consider that schools are supposed to be safe places, where learning and social development can take place. Some children across the nation have become overwhelmed with dysfunctional thoughts and emotions after viewing the graphic depictions broadcast by the media of the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident. Teachers, parents, clergy and other trusted adults are often turned to for guidance when children are troubled. Young children may be especially psychologically vulnerable and in need of reinforcing reassurances of safety and that they feel protected. They have to be reassured that the safety of their particular school, school-grounds, every student and especially the particular child or children being talked to is a foremost priority.
Some starting points may include:
- Starting a conversation. Ask if they heard about the incident. Ask them what they know about it. Picture drawing may be helpful in initiating conversation.
In previous articles on talking with children and adolescents (Morelli, 2007a,c; 2008b, 2011) I have pointed out that it is most important not to start out telling what your ideas are about the incident and don't assume that you know what your child is thinking. Rather, it is critical to know what the child is thinking and feeling and what facts they think they know about the incident. Since 14 December, right to the current time and most probably for the foreseeable future, the media has and will broadcast incorrect information and interpretationsiv. It will take quite some time for all the real facts to emerge. Your own and your children’s thoughts and feelings may change accordingly. As your child or adolescent explains, carefully listen for misconceptions, misinformation, and accompanying dysfunctional thoughts and feelings, such as anger, anxiety, depression or fears. Gently correct inaccurate information and validate their emotional reactions. It is also important to note that not to engage a child or adolescent about such an incident actually highlights its gravity so much more. "It is so awful, it cannot even be discussed."
- Continue any conversation using the Socratic Methodv. For example, if a child asks: "Is possible that this could happen at my school?" The adult's response would be guided by the child exploring the facts of what has been learned and implemented by those in authority in the school and community: "Ok! Let's look at the new things the school is doing."vi "We can learn new ways of handling such incidents." Questions about re-occurrence may also occur. Question- answer interaction fosters feelings of security.
- If the child does not mention it, the adult should point out that the perpetrator was stopped and can never repeat this action again. The quick response by first responders can be pointed out.
- In any interaction with the child or adolescent, caretakers should model a calm and confident demeanor.
- Maintain regular schedules for family activities such as meals and other usual family routines such as curfews and chores. Do not make any unnecessary major life-altering decisions during this time.
- Physically hugging your child and telling them how much you love them (in an age appropriate way) is certainly in order and is a critical healing action.
- Caretakers can share their own feeling of sadness but also communicate how they and others have done, and can do, good things for others and the community.
- Exposure to graphic media (images and sounds) of the incident should be limited and very young children should be as much as possible not exposed to such media at all (they may appear to be engaged in play but could also be attending to media coverage). Even adults can be psychological impacted by graphic exposure. This may include graphic horror media even unrelated to this incident.
- Caretakers need caretaking. Take time-out, pray, do activities that you like to do. Take time to talk to other parents in the community.
Common psycho-behavioral-spiritual reaction to trauma
Common reactions of children and adolescents include: attention and concentration difficulties, increased irritability and defiance, change in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, difficulty in separating from caretakers, preference to stay at home or in their rooms, expressing fear at returning to school, having a sense of danger that future events or activities may bring them harm and feelings of abandonment by God. If reactions seem severe or persist, professional assistance from licensed, highly trained, scientifically oriented mental health professionals should be sought. (Morelli, 2006a). Caretakers should take note of the research supporting the efficacy of Cognitive- Behavior Therapy in treatment of traumatic stress and its severe consequences, such as suicidiality. (Ghahramanlou-Holloway, Brown, & Beck, 2008; Morelli, 2009).
Also, and foremost, is remembering that the Church is a spiritual hospital and her Holy Mysteries and prayer are her instruments of spiritual treatment. (Morelli, 2006b). Human healing, then, when referenced to the victory of Christ over death, takes on an eternal meaning and purpose: chiefly, to partake of the deeper life found in God, to rise above the brokenness in such tragedies.
In a previous article (Morelli, 2008a), I wrote:
Our commitment to God is to put all our trust in Him. Let us pray the words of King David as he fled from Saul: “ ... This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I trust without a fear.” (Ps. 56: 9-11). In the words of one of the holiest of saints of the early Eastern Christian Church, St. Isaac of Syria: “For someone to entrust himself to God means that, from that point onwards, he will no longer be devoured by anguish or fear over anything; nor will he again be tormented by the thought that he has no one to look after him.” (Brock, 1997)
Understanding reactions to trauma
Some grief reactions to trauma and loss of loved ones, friends and acquaintances are to be expected and are considered perfectly normal. This may include periodic brief feelings of sadness, especially when recalling past activities involving the lost ones. Over time, such images and thoughts are transformed into a stronger sense of connection with peers, family, community, church and relationships with God. For some, this even goes further and they engage in altruistic acts for others.
Some children and adolescents who have suffered the loss of their classmates or teachers under traumatic circumstances such as the Sandy Hook Massacre display extended periods of extreme grief. They may mentally focus on the circumstances surrounding the occurrence, how it could have been thwarted and/or guilt that they themselves have survived. These individuals as well as the descriptions of those suffering from depression and Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD) discussed below should definitely be provided with the professional mental health services I previously recommended.
For some, exaggerated grief becomes prolonged across usual daily activities throughout the day and would be considered indicative of depression and other dysfunctional emotions such as anxiety and anger. Symptoms include prolonged and severe irritability, lack of joy, sleep pattern change, loss of appetite and decreased interest in activities previously enjoyed. Even more severe would be expressions of hopelessness, worthlessness and suicidal ideation. (Morelli, 2009). Some children somatize their dysphoric emotions. That is to say they convert their emotions to bodily complaints, such as chest tightness or pain, headaches, stomach ailments and digestion problems and/or rapid heartbeat.
Post-traumatic Stress Reactions
Some youngsters, as well as adults exposed to graphic scenes of the Sandy Hook carnage (and others exposed to similar traumatic events), will develop a more serious condition, akin to PTSD. Traumatic events are persistently re-experienced. PTSD signs (American Psychiatric Association 2000) include:
- recurring and intrusive distressing recollections of the events (images, thoughts perceptions and, in young children, repetitive play regarding aspects of the trauma event).
- recurrent distressing dreams of the event (in children, frightening dreams with no specific content.
- acting, feeling or re-living that the distressing events were reoccurring (in children, trauma-specific playacting
- intense psychological distress when exposed to external cues associated with the traumatic event.
- physiological reactivity (e.g., trembling, crouching) to trauma external cue exposure.
- persistent avoidance of trauma-associated stimuli such as thoughts, feelings, conversations, people —- also, inability to recall trauma events, diminished interest in activities, detachment from others, diminished range of feeling (unable to love).
- a sense of a foreshortened future (marriage, career, lifespan).
- increased arousal not present before the trauma, such as falling or staying asleep, anger or irritability outbursts, concentration hyper-vigilance, startle response.
I cannot reiterate too strongly that if a parent, teacher or caretaker of a child or adolescent (or colleague, in the case of traumatized adults) notices the signs of exaggerated grief, depression and certainly posttraumatic stress reactions in others as outlined above that aid from appropriate mental health professionals be sought. Parents can do this directly for and with their children. Adults can open a dialogue with their traumatized colleagues, suggest professional aid and enlist the support of supervisory personnel if necessary.
Christ is our true physician and healer
As Orthodox Christians we know that healing of the soul ranks higher than the healing of the body. This is because it is only by healing of the soul that we can attain our ultimate aim: theosis, or union with God, that we "might become partakers of the divine nature "as St. Peter (2Pt 1:4) puts it. In the Mind of Christ and His Church the healing of the body and mind is offered as a sign of His mercy and blessing to the person experiencing God's healing and to inspire others to do His will. Such Godly healing is to be sought through the Holy Mysteries of the Church, especially Holy Confession, Communion and Holy Unction, as well as prayer conformed to God's will. Nevertheless, we still embrace God's gift to mankind of the ability to develop scientific medical and psychological treatment. It is imperative that we who engage in the health and mental health professionals and the professionals themselves heed the advice of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Ageloglou, 1998): "— Help the sick people by show them the deeper meaning of life; do not only cure their bodies."
To accomplish this, all of must become like little children. That is to say, little children as Christ meant ‘children’ when He said to His disciples:
In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greater in the kingdom of the heavens?” And Jesus called to Himself a little child, and set him in their midst, and said, “Verily I say to you, unless ye be turned about and become as the little children, in no wise shall ye enter into the kingdom of the heavens. “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, this one is the greater in the kingdom of the heavens. “And whosoever shall receive one such little child in My name, receiveth Me. (Mt. 18:1-5).
Christ means for us to be humble, to use the talents, in this case the healing talents, He has given us, but to do so realizing that they come from and depend on Him. St. John tells us Jesus’ own words: “I am the vine, ye are the branches. The one who abideth in Me, and I in him, this one beareth much fruit; for apart from Me ye are not able to do anything." (Jn. 15:5).
"Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not." (Jer 31:15)
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Ageloglou, Priestmonk Christodoulos. (1998). Elder Paisios of The Holy Mountain. Mt. Athos, Greece: Holy Mountain.
Brock, S. (1997). The Wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press.
Ghahramanlou-Holloway, M., Brown, G.K., and Beck, A.T. (2008).Suicide. In M.A. Whisman (Ed.). Adapting cognitive Therapy for Depression: Managing Complexity and Comorbitity. NY: Guilford
Lambert, N. M., Finchamm F. D., Stillman, T. F., Graham, S. M., and Beach, S. R. H. (2010). Motivating change in relationships: Can prayer increase forgiveness? Psychological Science, 21 (1): pp. 126-132.
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Morelli, G. (2007a, August 28). Smart Parenting VI: Talking to Your Children About Sex. www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles7/MorelliSmartParentingVI.php.
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iv One example of particularly egregious interpretation accounts were made by so called medical, psychiatric and psychological experts. When queried as to how the shooter could perform such a horrific massacre, the answer given was that he was psychotic. The basis of such a speculative diagnosis was the brutality of the massacre itself. The diagnosis was then used as the explanatory principle for the massacre to be committed. This is pure unadulterated illogical circular reasoning that is totally unacceptable in the scientific community. The diagnosis of psychosis (or any disorder) has to be made on data independent of the event the disorder is the supposed cause. When I was teaching university undergraduates and graduate students and seminarians as well and even if a first level Psych 101 student gave me a circular reasoning answer such as this would be grounds for immediate course failure. So shame on so called doctoral, experts on this issue.
v Use of Questions: The Socratic Method
Use of questions is actually related to a cognitive-educational model called the Socratic Method (Beck, 1995). Using this technique, an instructor or mentor does not give data, knowledge or wisdom directly. Instead, the student discovers it as a result of answering a series of questions posed by the teacher. When a child discovers something for himself, or makes appropriate connections between things, is far more meaningful than referencing authority. When a parent asks questions like "What do you think?" or, "How is this related to what we learned in (scripture, reading the Church Fathers, a homily or church school etc.)," chances are much greater that the child will grasp and retain important points. Be ready to outline some of theological principles given above. Don't preach. Keep it simple. Use clear, focused, examples. (Morelli, 2008)
vi As I am writing this I received an e mail of new procedures being implemented by a NE USA school system as announced to district parents in an e mail. I have heavily edited the content for anonymity. This same information should be available for any school system in the United States and can be used in helping the child "discover" what has changed since the Sandy Hook Massacre and the safety and protection for their school:
School Security Plan:
Visitor Policy: All school visitors must be buzzed into a specific school building at a single clearly marked access point. Other entry points will be kept locked at all times. When classes are not in session, users of school buildings will have limited and defined access to specific school areas. Other areas will be locked and inaccessible.
Contact: If an untoward emergency occurs, the District will contact you via the emergency phone system already in place throughout the District. (land line, cell phones, phone texts, and email). Timely updates will be provided the same way.
Emergency Pick-Up: If an emergency situation occurs requiring school evacuation, you will be notified via the emergency contact system and told where to pick up your children. For security purposes, in order not to compromise the safety of students and staff, information about the pick-up location will not be publically broadcast before the actual emergency situation.
District Security Plan: The District has an extensive and detailed Security Plan that was developed in partnership with law enforcement (including the municipal, school, county and state Police Departments). The Plan covers response procedures for a variety of types of incidents, including lockdowns and active shooter situations. Drills on these procedures occur regularly throughout the year.
Highest Level Security Classification: Specifics of the District’s Security Plan are confidential at the highest level and not open to requests made through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) for any except responding school and law enforcement personnel. This measure is necessary to avoid compromising security and thereby endangering students and staff.
In the days and weeks to come, we expect to make further changes to the School Security Plan. As announced at the Board of Education Meeting on December xx, the school and municipal Police Department’s Crime Prevention Bureau in conjunction with county and state law enforcement will conduct a detailed security survey very shortly. The results of this survey will be made public at the next Board of Education meeting and security further security recommendations announced.
The municipal School District continues to make every effort to ensure that all students are educated in a safe and secure environment and school administrators and teachers are also protected. Contact me, Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx, Superintendent of Schools at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
***I will note that some proposals for School Safety have included having uniformed/un-uniformed armed police officers at every school. Some schools already have put in metal detectors, bullet proof windows in the school buildings. Here in San Diego, a proposal has been made to have cameras in school entrances, hallways, classrooms and offices, etc., with the ability to be broadcast in real-time to responding police cars.
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
He is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is also Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
Fr. Morelli is the author of: