MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There was an anxious start to the school day across South Florida and the rest of the country as school teachers faced nervous and frightened students, looking for reassurance and answers following Friday’s shooting that left 20 children dead at a Connecticut elementary school.
On the first day back to school since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, flags were flying at half mast outside schools across the state. Many schools also held a moment of silence for the children and adults who died.
At a South Florida school, many parents held their children a little longer than usual Monday before they were sent off to school.
“I was a little hesitant you know but you have to go on, they have to go back to school. They have to continue with their day,” said mother Lissette Soubal.
Parents are learning to cope with their own emotions before trying to help their children understand the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut.
“They’re a little nervous, they understand what’s going on,” said Soubal.
Another parent agreed and said her son was hesitant to go to school.
“He didn’t want to let me go. He said, ‘no I want to stay with you Mommy’,” explained another mother.
In Miami-Dade, counselors and specially trained staffers are offering students who need it help to cope with the tragedy. Parents with children in the district received robocalls over the weekend which informed them that teachers would also be undergoing special training to help their students if needed.
The Superintendent decided to have the moment of silence as a “show of solidarity in light of what occurred, but it did at elementary schools cause some confusion,” said School Board Member Raquel Regalado.
Regalado says that’s why a lot of class time was spent Monday having a conversation about the tragedy.
“A lot of these children have seen the news and know that something happened at a school, and they don’t feel safe in their school, so most of the day has been spent reassuring them and talking to them about the procedures that exist,” said Regalado.
School administrators in both Miami-Dade and Broward said they have safety measures in place which are checked and rehearsed on a regular basis.
The Broward School District asked local law enforcement agencies to step up their presence outside of schools all week. School Resource Officers are in many middle and high schools countywide but not at the elementary level.
Ft. Lauderdale police say they do provide an added layer of security.
“It fosters a relationship between the child and police officer,” says Lt. Frank Sousa. “They are doing a law enforcement function but it’s more than that. It’s an extra parent. They are there to let them child know they are on the right track and that they are human. What happened Friday is unimaginable. Putting an armed cop doesn’t stop it but it is a deterrent.”
Healthcare professionals stress that parents should talk with their children about what happened in a manner that is age appropriate.
“If they are seven or eight years old I think you have to reinforce the concept that they are safe at home and at school and that these are not common events that occur all the time,” said psychiatrist Daniel Bober. “That sometimes the people that do this are not well and they are sick and need help.”