Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Letter from the Principal

Dear Francis Wyman Elementary School Community,

The tragedy in Newtown Connecticut is horrific.  My thoughts and prayers are with the entire school community as they cope with this unimaginable loss. It is heart wrenching thinking about the families now dealing with the deep despair of the loss of their precious loved ones.

The support of family is what I remember when I think of the tragedies I have experienced in my life time. I was in second grade when President Kennedy was assassinated. It was a scary time. I remember hiding behind a chair and crying as I thought about Caroline and John- John having lost their father. My mother found me, took me by the hand, sat me on her lap and hugged me. She told me that it was normal to feel sad and that I should not feel ashamed of crying. She reassured me that my father was not going to be shot. It was then that I felt secure again and the sadness and fear dissipated.

As a parent I have supported my own children through more tragedies than I ever could have imagined. When they were ages eight and eleven there was Columbine. When they were ten and thirteen they experienced 9/11. Virginia Tech was most difficult for my oldest daughter as she was in her first year of college at the time. Now, as they are in their early twenties, they have seen even more in this one year – the Colorado Cinema shooting, the Oregon Mall shooting, and now Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Through all these events, I have followed my mother’s approach with them as she did for me. I acknowledged that their feelings were normal. I reassured them that they were safe and that the event was unlikely to happen to them or our family. And I hugged them.

On Monday, we will be back at school and we will not initiate discussion of this matter with students. However, should our students need our support we will be ready to provide support in the simplest and most basic ways. We will let our students know that their feelings are normal, that they are safe, and that it is unlikely that an event like this will ever happen to them. We will let them know we have a safety plan and that all the doors are locked. Most importantly we will plan to make Francis Wyman Elementary School a happy, warm, and comforting place so that our precious students feel the collective hug from our entire school community. 

Parents should not hesitate to call the school to speak to our guidance counselors or school psychologist as they are ready to provide help and support in any way that they can.

To all of our families, may you find the peace and love that is so desperately needed at this time.

Susan Astone


  1. Thank you Mrs. Astone, I have been struggling all weekend about what to do and your blog helped confirm my basic protect an innocent 7 year old from this horror and make sure he is not afraid to go to school. I kept the tv off all weekend when he was around and he has no idea about any of this. There are so many articles saying we should talk to our kids before they return to school so they don't hear it from someone else. Do you recommend this? I would rather not, if he were older I would but just don't know. Prayers for you and all our wonderful teachers at FWS.
    Deb Cote

    1. I have asked a psychologist to lend some advise to answer your question. You know your child best and should go with your best instinct. The psychologist thought it was OK not to say anything to a very young child as long as the child's questions were answered when he did ask. The most important thing is for a child to be able to ask a question, be listened to, and be responded to when he does ask. If he does ask a question at school, we are prepared to respond to his question or concern. You are right in trying to protect his innocence.

      If you do decide to talk to him about it, keep it simple. You might say something like, "You may hear some children at school talking about a bad man who hurt some children at another school. I don’t want you to worry about what you hear. The man cannot hurt you or anyone else. Just like mom and dad, your teachers are there to keep you safe. Remember, you can always talk to your teacher. " I hope this helps.

  2. It does help very much and I really appreciate the response. Praying for a good day for all our kids, teachers and FWS staff today:)