Friday, February 10, 2012



By Betsy Landers, Special to CNN  |

Betsy Landers is president of the National PTA.

image When students return to Miramonte Elementary School on Thursday, they will be met by a new staff.

February 9th, 2012 - 7:02 AM ET :: There is no excuse for the child abuse that the police say happened at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles. The National PTA joins parents everywhere in shock and outrage, especially those families directly affected.

The protection of children in all school settings is a fundamental right and of the utmost priority for the National PTA. A safe environment is crucial to learning, and every child in every city deserves to feel safe in school.

Miramonte administrators have replaced the faculty and staff, a move they believe will keep children safe. Students will return Thursday to new teachers and the presence of social workers. While promoting a safer environment, this move also creates a tremendous amount of change, which can interrupt the learning process.

Students will have to adjust. As with many experiences, parents can and should play a key role in helping the children cope with the change. What can parents do?

Rebuild trust. These children might feel like they experienced a broken trust from the previous staff, and now they are meeting people they don’t know. Parents should visit the school with them and meet the new teachers and staff.

Manage feelings. There are specific things you can do to help your child maintain a positive mood, such as exercising, eating small treats and listening to or making music. Also, making a list of all the positive things they can think of, even the smallest, can stimulate positive feelings.

Be a role model. Show your child the ways you handle change and maintain a positive attitude. Talk about how you feel during times of change and about what you do to cope. If you are confident about an upcoming change, chances are your child will be positive, too.

Talk about it. Talk about what will happen, why it’s happening and what to expect. Acknowledge your child’s worries and fears and respond sympathetically. Allow children to feel angry, sad and confused. It’s a normal reaction, and your child needs to be allowed to express these feelings.

Stay healthy. The healthier and better rested a child feels, the easier it is to withstand everyday stress and to handle change. Make sure your child eats well, gets plenty of exercise and gets enough sleep.

Maintain routines. Knowing what to expect helps your child feel grounded and secure, especially during times of transition. Try to keep other changes to a minimum for a time.

Be available. If a child has a hard time adjusting, parents need to be more available than usual and must try to simplify family life so that they can focus on the child’s needs.

Write. Encourage your child to write in a journal about worries or changes. All children express themselves differently.

Finally, parents can take action for school and child safety everywhere to try to prevent such things from happening. However, safety is not just a one-time training workshop or a discussion at a school board meeting. School safety is much like family engagement - it’s an ongoing process of creating a real partnership between families, schools and the local community. The National PTA stands ready to help create these partnerships to ensure that all children have a safe place to learn and grow.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Betsy Landers

CNN’s Schools of Thought blog covers education from a variety of perspectives that include policies, practices and people. From pre-kindergarten through college, for parents, teachers, students – and anyone who has ever been a student - Schools of Thought offers food for thought in the national conversation on education. It’s edited by Donna Krache, Jamie Gumbrecht and John Martin, with contributions from CNN journalists and those with an interest in education.

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