LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) –A group of schools in mid-Michigan says they’re horrified by the devastating school shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday.

An 18-year-old gunman took the lives of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. The gunman barricaded himself in a room and “began shooting anyone that was in his way,” authorities said Wednesday.

The Ingham Intermediate School District, which consists of Dansville, East Lansing, Haslett, Holt, Lansing, Leslie, Mason, Okemos, Stockbridge, Waverly, Webberville, and Williamston school districts, said they are grieving for the painful loss of life in Texas.

“This horrific and unconscionable act will forever change the students, staff, families, and communities of Uvalde, the State of Texas, mid-Michigan, and our country as a whole,” the group said in a release. “We are tired of the horrible violence in our schools and the lack of focus on mental health. We need change.”

The group also said that keeping children and staff safe is their absolute top priority.

“Every parent should feel safe to drop their child off at school and know that when they pick them up all they will hear are the wonderful stories about the things they learned and the friends they have made,” Ingham ISD said.

Lastly, the group called for the legislature in the state to give more support for mental health and take more action to reduce violence in schools.

“Take away the stigma of mental health and support those who need it. School leaders are more than willing to sit at the table with legislators and be part of the solution. We encourage our community members to reach out to our legislators to ask for their support as well. We need your help to keep our children, our staff, and our schools safe,” Ingham ISD said.

Meanwhile, over in Eaton County, Charlotte Public Schools echoed much of the same message.

As a parent and an educator, there is a visceral reaction to any incident of school violence. It leaves us saddened, scared, and worried for the students we support. Please know that the safety of our children is foremost in our minds every day, and we review our emergency plans frequently. We have Student Support Specialists in every building to help any student that may need help processing these recent events. Please reach out if you need help and we thank you for your continued support.

Mandy Stewart, Superintendent of Charlotte Public Schools

Back over in Ingham County, Okemos Public Schools shared a list of seven tips from the National Association of School Psychologists to help the community support children at times like this: 

1. Reassure children that they are safe and our schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately. 

2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. 

3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. 

  • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them.
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools. 
  • Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines, communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.

4. Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk. 

5. Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of a mental health professional if you are at all concerned. 

6. Limit viewing of these events on television or social media. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood. 

7. Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed. 

Resources for families and educators can be found on Ingham ISD’s website.