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Boston schools step up security in wake of Conn. slayings

Boston School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson says school counselors and psychologists are in place to help both students and teachers coping with the shock of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that has shaken the nation.

She also said security has been stepped up and she has asked principals to review their safety procedures.

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“What’s most important is that students maintain their routine and are safe and comfortable,” she said this morning.

She said she remained confident in the security systems that are in place in Boston schools. She noted that teachers and administrators have flip charts advising them what to do if various kinds of emergencies happen, she said.

At the same time, she said, “I don’t think anything prepares you to respond to this particular situation. ... None of us ever imagined ever having to use any of those procedures.”

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Johnson said parents and staff were e-mailed a flyer over the weekend from the National Association of School Psychologists about how to talk to children about violence. The flyers were also handed out at schools this morning. She said younger children, in particular, may be more uncertain of what’s going on.

Governor Deval Patrick has decided to leave it to the discretion of local districts to deal with any issues that arise in the aftermath of the shootings -- from reviewing and tightening security measures to providing counselors, said Paul Reville, the state’s education secretary.

“I don’t think we need a state initiative,” Reville said in an interview. “We just need to be there to support districts.”

Reville said explaining to students what happened is a difficult task for districts.

“The tragedy is deeply felt by all of us,” Reville said. “Our sympathy goes out to all parents, students, teachers and anyone else who has been affected.”

At the Mission Hill K-8 school, principal Ayla Gavins said staff would not be pushing information about the shootings on students but they would respond to questions.

Camille Byron, sent her 9-year-old 4th-grader, Omauri Byron-Edwards, to school today. She said she told him the truth about what happened, but she didn’t want him watching too much of the news.

“He just said, ‘It’s so sad. It’s unbelieve that that can occur,’” she said.

“You’ve got to face your fears, regardless. He still has to come to school.”

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