Athol Daily News – Supt. Fernandes responds to Uvalde tragedy: ‘Take care of children’

ATHOL — On Tuesday this week, Americans once again found themselves reacting to the slaughter of innocent people going about their daily lives. This time, the scene was an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where a young man with an AR15 type rifle shot and killed 19 fourth graders, a teacher and a teaching assistant.

Just 10 days earlier, another young man wielding a similar weapon shot and killed 10 people shopping at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

On Wednesday, May 25, the day after the Uvalde shooting, Athol Royalston Regional School District Superintendent Darcy Fernandes distributed a letter calling on the community to “do our best to be kind to one another, because this tragedy undoubtedly calls us all to ask ourselves if we are safe. We are a close-knit community; looking after the students and ourselves is our priority.

“This morning, continues the letter, I received a call from our resource agent. Courtney said there will be additional police patrols in the area. Our district has clear protocols for these events. Our police department has worked closely with us to develop them. She then offered two links as resources for parents facing difficult questions from their children about violence.

In an interview with the Athol Daily News, Fernandes said, “We do our best to try to provide our teachers with guides that are most age-appropriate to address these events. As a district, it really depends on the individual class and how the teachers decide to approach it. What we try to do is provide the materials that they can use.

Despite the enormity of the tragedy, Fernandes said there seemed to be very little obvious reaction in the neighborhood.

“I’ll be honest with you,” she said, “it’s been pretty quiet and people haven’t really talked about it much. You can see people wondering about what’s going on in America, but I don’t think people have been able to verbalize their feelings so much. I think part of that is, what’s the solution? I think that’s the big question that a lot of people are concerned about. How do we solve this problem and ensure the safety of our children and staff?

“The answers, unfortunately, are not in the schools; they are outside the schools. I think that’s the struggle a lot of people have.

Asked if school committees and administrations should become more active in finding solutions to the underlying issues that could lead to mass shootings – in schools and elsewhere – Fernandes replied: “The most difficult , is that people now expect the school institution to be responsible for fixing everything . We can’t–we just can’t. We only have a limited capacity.

“When it comes to law enforcement and things that are really about public safety, we do our best to follow the advice of experts in this area. This is not our area of ​​expertise. Our area of ​​expertise is learning for students, so we really rely on our local police department to really help us figure out what we need to do. It’s really inappropriate for us to make these decisions because it’s not our area of ​​expertise.

While many TV, radio and newspaper commentators blame elected officials for failing to take the necessary steps to reduce the number of school shootings, Fernandes said schools are not the only segment of society at risk. pay the price for this lack of action.

“I think society is paying the price,” she said. “I don’t think it’s just schools. I mean, look at last week. We’re looking at a set of people who just went to a grocery store; it was a normal day. and they did regular things.

“So I don’t know if I can say we’re taking the brunt of it. I think society is in general. When I talk to people, they say to me, ‘What is my choice? Do I leave my child at home? Take them with me? No matter where I go, I don’t feel safe. So it’s not just a burden on the schools.

“We really have to think,” she continued. “As a nation, what do we really want to defend? And how do we want others to see us? I think this is the biggest question to talk about and think about?

“Should schools be part of this conversation? Absolutely. But finding a solution is not our area of ​​expertise.

Asked for a final thought, Fernandes simply replied, “Take care of the kids. We have a lot of young people who just don’t know how to understand this. Over the next few weeks, months and years, we need to be part of our dinner table conversation so children can understand that they have some control and talk about how they themselves can help.

“My concern is that we have a lot of little people listening to this. They don’t understand it and people may not treat it with them. Silence doesn’t mean they don’t care – it just means they don’t know what to do. So, as adults, we really need to bring up the conversation enough to be able to get our kids to understand it and give them a chance to be curious.

Greg Vine can be contacted at

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