Continued Response to Tree of Life Tragedy
As the healing process continues from the unthinkable act that took place Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life synagogue, the Fox Chapel Area School District continues to pay tribute to the victims, offer support to their families, and honor the heroes who sprung to action that day.
Here are just a few of those activities.
◼ On Friday, the high school Jewish Student Union set up a table in the cafeteria during lunch period for students and staff members to write notes of condolence and support to those affected by the tragedy.
◼ Also Friday, students at Dorseyville Middle School were invited to go to the auditorium for a memorial presentation and a time for silent reflection. A slideshow highlighted the Tree of Life victims. Students and staff were encouraged to wear blue to show support for those grieving.
◼ At the high school, video production students are producing a video highlighting the importance of diversity and tolerance.
◼ The O’Hara Elementary School PTO will host a community-building event from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria. Children and families will be able to write notes and participate in art projects to be given to the victims, their families, and/or the helpers and first-responders.
◼ Fairview Elementary School teachers and staff contributed toward a gift for Indiana Township Officer Scott Palmer and his K-9, Ares. Palmer is a member of the North Hills Special Response Team, which responded to Tree of Life in the minutes after the shooting.
◼ There are also several ideas being circulated by different high school clubs. These ideas range from a possible art installation to selling stickers and donating the proceeds to specific organizations. These are in the early planning stages, and it is important to us that we empower students to take a lead in these endeavors.
As soon as we heard about what took place on Saturday, our school district response team was activated.
◼ We were in contact with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services school-based liaison to identify supports available and to obtain guidance on what the district’s response should be.
◼ Information was shared from the director of the STAR-Center Outreach and the behavioral health liaison for the Allegheny County Student Assistance Program, provided by Allegheny County and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside.
◼ Our next step was to notify our school principals, counselors, psychologists, MAPS counselors, safety coordinator, and the district office team to let them know the information we had obtained and to share resources that could be used to support students and staff.
As the school week began, additional actions steps were taken. While these steps vary at each building, all administrators and school counselors met to ensure steps were supported by all and developmentally appropriate.
◼ At the high school and middle school, emails were sent to staff prior to the start of the school day on Monday. An announcement was made over the PA systems on Monday, and a moment of silence was held for the victims. Our school counselors were asked to clear their schedules and to make themselves available for any students in need. MAPS staff and school psychologists also were available. Additionally, the tragedy was discussed in some of our secondary classrooms.
◼ At the elementary level, principals made certain that all of our staff were aware of how to best address any questions or concerns that may be brought up by students and provided a reminder that the school counselors are available for any student who may need assistance. Our elementary schools each had a school counselor, school psychologists, and/or MAPS staff available.
Community-building is something that is emphasized proactively in our school district. We know that the culture of a school deeply impacts learning. Every school in our district has an anti-bullying program, and each of our schools address diversity and the strengths of our differences in many ways. Among other things, our schools hold theme weeks pertaining to accepting the differences of others; we have schoolwide positive behavioral support programs; we host assemblies for students that pertain to accepting differences; we hold various class and school events that focus on different cultures; our teachers implement lessons that support embracing diversity; and our teachers hold class meetings that reinforce the district's values of respect, responsibility, and integrity.
Times like this remind us of the importance of collaboration and unity. We thank you for your continued support of our school community.
Below are some additional resources for parents.