Talk To Youth About Safety

Talk To Youth About Safety


*10595 CO 119*Black Hawk, CO  80422*(303)582-3444*

Home of the Eagles!

Office of the Superintendent

May 8, 2019

Dear Gilpin School Community,

Another tragic event befell a nearby school community yesterday. The school shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch and the loss of a student life and injury to other students is felt by all parents and educators across Colorado and the Nation. Please extend your thoughts and prayers for the victims and to the families and friends of those injured or killed. This senseless act of violence is a tragedy that is difficult to explain and to understand as to why these acts occur.

Now is a time for parents and educators to talk with your children/students to hear their concerns about school violence.

Cheri Lovre from the Management Institute provides advice and questions for parents and educators to ask children/students about school safety. “It is worth taking a moment to think about the importance of starting the conversation in a way that will invite youth into the conversation and avoid making them defensive. One way of doing that is making the youth the “the expert.” So instead of asking whether your child/student is anxious, consider framing it something like, “There was a lot of coverage on the news about the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch yesterday. When that happens, how do you think that affects [your peers] [students] [kids your age]?” And then just listen. We often jump in too quickly to reassure youth, when what they really want and need is for us to listen to all of their concerns.

Then, still, instead of offering reassurances, engage youth in conveying their thoughts about a range of ideas or possible solutions:

• What might help students feel safer in school? (Or, “… be safer in school?”)

• What could parents do to help youth feel safe? What could teachers do?

• What kinds of things has your school done that address school safety?

• What do kids wish adults understood about what it is like to be a school student today?

• How will I know if you are bothered by this later?

• What are some things that might be helpful for us to talk about in the next few days?

Questions such as these allow adults to learn a lot about what will help youth feel safe. When we make assumptions, we lose that opportunity. What we really need to know is what will help youth feel safe, and that is what they identify with rather than what we adults might think.

As adults we often forget that, “I don’t know, but let’s continue talking about this,” is a perfectly acceptable answer. We’re used to having the answers, but when times are troubling, we’re often even more motivated to have answers than we are patient to listen! Your kids need to know that you’re willing to listen much more than they need for you to have a pat answer.

Finally, when wrapping up conversations of this sort, you might bring it into the moment:

• What do you need me to know right now?

• Is there something I could do that would be helpful right now (Lovre, 2018)?”

Here is an additional resource for parents and educators to reference when talking with children/students about school safety and security link:

At GCSD, the safety of all students and staff is our daily practice and priority, stated in our mission to provide a “caring culture in a safe environment.” Additionally, the Gilpin County Sheriff is a great partner with the school for safety and security. Sheriff’s Deputies will increase their presence at the school the rest of this week and during the remaining weeks of the school year.  

Safety at school happens when everyone contributes to the safe environment. Our safety plan encourages the anonymous reporting through Safe2Tell. Students and staff are told if they see something or hear something, tell a parent, a school adult, or report to Safe2Tell or call 877-542-7233.

We had previously scheduled safety drills for this afternoon. The safety drills have been cancelled. However, as part of our partnership with law enforcement, Gilpin County Sheriff Deputies, Black Hawk Police Officers, and State Patrol Troopers had a previously scheduled meeting this afternoon, May 8, at the school. There will be a number of law enforcement or other emergency vehicles at the school this afternoon. There is no other reason that law enforcement will be on campus other than to hold a previously scheduled meeting at the school.

The days to come may be difficult for students and staff. Please contact Kim Cobb, school counselor, or your principal, for additional support.


David S. MacKenzie, Ph.D.

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