In the Wake of Uvalde

by Peter H. York, Head of School
This week, as we approached the end of what has been a wonderful 50th year here at James River, we were stunned by the news of an event that is every educator’s worst nightmare. I want to share with you the message I sent to our faculty on Wednesday, May 26. 
The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has brought a mixture of horror, grief, and fear to all of us. More senseless deaths, ten years after the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, so rocked our world ten years ago. Today, we ache again with the grief of parents who have lost children. We fret together as teachers who want to be sure our students are always safe at school. We worry that our country has been unable to stop mass shootings from happening. What should we do next?
Ten years ago, we conducted a safety audit and came up with our present security system. We improved building security and refined our lockdown drill procedures. We will review and make improvements to our security and procedures again. The police consultant who worked with us told us that a huge protective factor we have at James River is the small size of our community where we know each other well. 
As educators, we seek to support our students and parents. An article from PBS on how parents can best help children with tragic events in the news recommends turning off the tv, keeping regular routines, giving extra physical comfort, focusing children’s attention on the helpers--police, firemen, doctors, nurses--and, finally, ask the children what they’ve heard and what they think has happened, so you can clarify any misunderstandings. ( (Additional information and links for parents, provided by our school counselor, are available below.)
Here at school, especially with older students, time in advisory to let students share their feelings and validate them with active listening could be beneficial. With younger children, especially, it’s important for them to know that the grown-ups have a plan to keep them safe. We’re also very fortunate to have on staff Amber Freeman, our school counselor, who has cleared her counseling calendar to be available to anyone who needs to talk about what happened in Uvalde, TX.
As adults, we know that sometimes tragic things happen. When those things are out of our control, we lean on each other for reassurance, and those of us who pray, pray mightily for the comfort of those who are grieving and for the insight to respond to our own and others’ grief without doing harm.
As we finish out what has been a fantastic year at James River, full of plays, concerts, and treasured James River traditions, we are ever more appreciative of the joy in the hallways and our community that is family.
From the School Counseling Office
by Amber Freeman, School Counselor
This week, many of us are left wondering how to help ourselves and our children deal with what happened Tuesday. Here are some tips from the American School Counselor Association: 
  • Parents and adults first need to deal with and assess their own responses to crisis and stress.
  • Keep everyone’s routines as normal as possible. Kids gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
  • Limit exposure to television and the news.
  • Listen to kids’ fears and concerns.
  • Be honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.
    Reassure kids that the world is a good place to be, even though there are people who do bad things. Point out that the 24-hour news cycle tends to focus on negative happenings, rather than positive ones, but we shouldn't let this skew our worldview.
  • Rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships.
These articles also provide helpful tips on how to help yourself and your child deal with the tragedy of a school shooting: