Resources and supports for our students, families

Resources and supports for our students, families
Posted on 12/31/2021

Good evening.  As we approach the waning hours of 2021, I wanted to provide you with an update on this past week’s activities since the tragedy that struck the King family and the Quakertown community on Christmas Day, and provide a forward look into next week’s activities.

I would like to thank so many of you for your love, support and prayers for the King family.  I have heard beautiful stories this week of the many contributions that Eric and Kristin King have made to the Quakertown and Upper Bucks communities, and about their children. The King’s participation in activities at school, church, sports organizations, at work, and simply being great friends to so many people makes the loss that much more impactful.  Supporting how our students, staff and faculty, along with parents emotionally respond and process this tragedy is of the utmost importance. I wanted to capture what the district is doing.

Since the early morning hours on Christmas Day, QCSD has been planning to support your child(ren) and you as we reopen school Tuesday morning.  With the assistance of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s PREPaRE Team, the principals from Richland Elementary and Strayer Middle Schools, and members of the district administration have met multiple times to coordinate the work needed to support these two schools, as well as students in other schools who are affected. The PREPaRE Team is made up of IU mental health professionals and other educators who are specially trained to support school crisis response teams. We are so grateful for the countless hours of work by so many people during the Holidays.   

On December 26th, the faculties of the two schools each met virtually to grieve the loss together.  Their meetings were facilitated by the IU’s PREPaRE staff members and supported by QCSD administration. Then again on Wednesday, the staff and faculty of Richland Elementary School met at their school with the IU team, QCSD administration, with assistance from QCSD counselors from other schools.  On Wednesday evening, the IU PREPaRE team offered several sessions of Caregiver Training to parents to support them in discussing these events with their children and in helping their children grieve.  Scores of parents and teachers took advantage of this opportunity.  Richland parents have also organized opportunities for children to get together and talk with each other during this week.

The purpose of Caregiver Training was to share facts about the crisis, talk about common reactions to the crisis, present ways to help children develop healthy coping strategies, share how to respond when a child has ongoing or intense reactions to the trauma, and discuss supports that will be offered in school when students return to school on January 4th.  It explained how a child’s grief reaction depends on age and developmental level.  For example, an elementary student’s reaction might include difficulty in school or attendance; sleeping, eating, irritability, aggression, and disruptive behaviors; and repeated retelling of events.  Helping a child that age may include sticking to the facts of the situation, assuring them of their own safety and well-being, maintaining normal routines, checking their understanding of events, giving your child permission to grieve, and helping them develop their own coping strategies.  

While the primary focus of preparation and training this week and next is on the staff and faculties of the two schools, every building will be prepared to appropriately address the needs of its students.  We know through redistricting and the King’s family’s participation in community sports programs that students who are potentially impacted by this crisis are in every school.  Principals are reviewing lists provided by CYBA and QMFA and crosstalking, and school-based counselors will be prepared to address student needs in every building across the district.

On Monday, January 3rd, the IU PREPaRE team will be providing individualized training to Richland Elementary and Strayer Middle School’s professional and support staff in preparation of students returning to school the next day.  A general training of the same content will be provided to staff in all other buildings.  Also on Monday, we will be providing links to videos being developed this weekend by the IU that cover similar content to the Caregiver Training.  On Tuesday, January 4th, all Quakertown schools will be prepared to support the needs of their returning students.  Richland and Strayer will have additional staffing to support the principals and teachers, members of the IU PREPaRE Team, and district psychologists and counselors. There will be specific activities and support for students of the two schools that are pre-designed for any mental health challenges that might occur.   

It will take time for our community to process this tragedy.  In turn, additional student and staff support and services will be provided as needed after the first day back.  We are planning for that.  Again, we are so grateful for the expertise and support we have received from the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, and for the countless hours of work by so many others during the Holidays.

Attached are initial resources and suggestions for talking with your children about trauma and grief.

Books Dealing With Loss or Trauma.pdf 

Grief Do's and Don'ts.pdf 

If someone’s grief appears to be severe or cause for concern, please use the resources below. QCSD's website will also be updated regularly with information.

Lenape Valley Foundation Warmline (non-crisis mental health talk line)

Available Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 1-215-896-9717

NAMI Bucks County Warmline provides free, confidential support and resources 

Available from 3-10 pm, 215-343-3055

Crisis Text Line: Available for students, parents, community, and staff.

National Youth Crisis Hotline (24 hours): 1-800-999-9999 

There will be a community vigil for the King Family at Univest Park on Wednesday, January 5th, at 7 PM.

Thank you for taking the time to read.  We appreciate your support and feedback during this most challenging time.  Wishing you and your family the very best in the New Year!  

Bill Harner


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