The tragedy in Uvalde, Texas has left many searching for answers: How could this happen? Did the police wait too long to raid the school? Respond strongly enough? As the grim news spreads, parents need to have honest conversations with their children.
Twenty-one crosses in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, each marking a life lost. Tuesday’s deadly rampage has captured worldwide attention as many try to explain the unexplained.
“We live in a world where communication is available to everyone,” says Dr. Richard Bolduc, a clinical psychologist with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. “The information that needs to be shared needs to be relative to their age group, so when you say something to a second or third grader, it may be very different than a message that will be integrated and processed by a high school student.”
Dr. Bolduc’s role is to lead, develop, and implement mental health, emotional wellness, and addiction strategies across the OCSB to ensure that all schools are safe and nurturing environments for students.
In a time of crisis, students can face stress, and Bolduc says parents need to listen to their children’s concerns and provide compassion.
“The most important thing right now is to make sure they are reunited as a family,” says Bolduc. “And also understand that what is presented is extremely important, that is undeniable, but the important thing is that the information is properly digested within a family.”
Bolduc says that the school staff is ready to talk with students and ready for action. Elementary schools within the board keep gates locked, security cameras are in place, and worst-case lockdown and school security procedures are practiced.
“We have a crisis intervention team that comes to our schools and we make sure the right people are there to serve and help families and we let our families know about these things when they happen,” says Bolduc.
The Ottawa Police Services also have plans in place with a system known as Immediate Action Rapid Deployment.
“It’s the response system to major events like an active killer situation and those kinds of situations,” says Const. Chris Spriggs. “There are different circumstances in which IRD tactics would be appropriate, as well as a barricade call could be presented, so it would depend on the call for duty and the behaviors of the subjects that would dictate our response.”
The Ottawa Police Service is a leader in IRD training and response now used by most Canadian police forces.
“We also have the rescue task force model where we have special operations paramedics and special operations firefighters who get to the hot zone faster.”
There are many situations that can warrant a police response and schools being closed, and Bolduc says that in times of stress, communicating can help and has provided advice through the OCSB website.
“Our role is to make sure our students are safe at these events,” says Bolduc. “It’s important to focus on the resilience of people in our community. We’ve really come a long way and learned a lot through this process together.”