Should Schools be Talking to Young Children about the Sandy Hook Tragedy?

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Even if you are fortunate enough not to be personally affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings, you've almost certainly been at the receiving end of the relentless, sometimes gruesome media coverage. This has created special issues for families and communities with small children, and particularly for elementary schools. Many school administrations have chosen to be proactive and have scheduled assemblies or class-by-class discussions about the tragedy, in many cases lead by school psychologists and counselors.

It's easy to see the reasoning behind this: getting ahead of the story allows for more consistent, thoughtful responses to questions that may be raised by children, and helps to avoid the impact of dramatic misinformation spread from child to child "on the playground."

In some communities, however, this approach has created significant conflict. Many parents feel that it should be up to them to decide whether or not even to broach the subject with their children. This has been especially true for parents of kindergartners, many of whom are afraid that explaining what happened in Newtown could be traumatic for their children. And many parents who feel that they have control over their children's exposure to media believe that they can (and should) protect their children from news of this terrible event.

It's a tricky subject—nobody wants to rob a 5-year-old of his or her innocence, but should news about the Sandy Hook tragedy be considered a Pandora's box that's already open? Is it realistic to shield even a very young child from the ubiquitous media images and the stories they may hear from their peers, their older siblings, or older students in their schools?

What do you think? Are schools overstepping their bounds by addressing the Sandy Hook killings with their students, or are they serving a crucial role in looking after the emotional well-being of their children?

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