April 15, 2022

Committed to the Emotional Health of HPS Students

Helpful resources for helping students cope with unsettling current events.

Over the last two years our students have watched the headlines of war, riots, and injustice all while dealing with the first-hand impacts of a pandemic.  All of these events have created increased anxiety and stress among our students.   We understand that the emotional support a student receives plays as large a role in determining their success and we continue to work with our students and their families to provide that support when needed.  

This week, students are again watching the news about  an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was killed by a police officer during a police traffic stop in Grand Rapids. While police investigate what happened in Grand Rapids last week, protestors are marching and calling for justice. We know this news will once again have many students, and their families, feeling anxious or uncertain.

Students of color and Immigrant families represent more than 65% percent of the HPS student body. We recognize that this latest news is a too-familiar and too-frequent painful reality for some of these students and their families.

Holland Public Schools is committed to providing safe and predictable learning environments for all students. Most of the time, this means keeping students healthy and safe. But it also means that our teachers and staff are committed to supporting the emotional and mental health of students in a way that creates a positive environment where learning can happen. 

When appropriate, HPS staff are engaging students in conversations about how these close-to-home events are impacting their social and emotional health, listening to their frustrations about what is happening, and allowing students to process what they are seeing and experiencing.

Here are some resources our colleagues at Grand Rapids Public Schools shared with families. We think they will be helpful for you as you continue these difficult conversations with your student at home:

Explaining the News to Our Kids - from Common Sense Media
This post provides age-based tips on talking to kids about the news and how to listen to scholars. The information can be easily applied to the school setting, though written for parents.

Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News - from PBS.org 
In times of community or world-wide crisis, it's easy to assume that young children do not know what is going on. However, one thing is for sure -- children are very sensitive to how the adults in their lives feel. They are keenly aware of the expressions on their caregivers’ faces and the tone of their voices. Children can sense when their caregivers are really worried, whether they are watching the news or talking about it with others. No matter what children know about a "crisis," it's especially scary for children to realize that adults are scared.

How Can Parents [And Educators] Help Their Children - from Community Violence Can Lead to Childhood Trauma
Whether community violence is a one-time incident or a frequent occurrence in your community, following each incident of community violence, it is important for [caregivers and educators] to spend time talking with children, find ways to help them feel safe, maintain rules and routines and address any acting out behaviors.

HPS is committed to providing educational excellence for the students and families of our community. At the same time, we believe it is our collective responsibility to foster respect, a sense of belonging, and success that honors each individual. We are grateful to be a part of a community that recognizes the importance of having these difficult but necessary conversations; working together toward solutions that will positively impact our ever-changing world.

Nick Cassidy
HPS Interim Superintendent