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Culture

Tough Road Ahead for Westport Officials, Students

Hailey Owens was a fourth grader at Westport Elementary K-8./ Credit: Anna Thomas

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/tough-road-ahead-westport-officials-students_78200.mp3

After the tragic abduction and killing of Hailey Owens, Westport Elementary says it will do its best to help their students cope. KSMU’s Anna Thomas reports.

On Wednesday evening, charges were formally filed against the suspect in the case, Craig Wood.

Gary Tew is the principal at Westport elementary where Hailey Owens attended fourth grade.  He put out the Alert Now protocol Wednesday morning, notifying teachers and staff of the expectations for the school day.

The plan also brought in counselors from the surrounding areas to help students and staff.

“Students react differently to circumstances, especially to tragedies. Some will joke, some will be really upset, I mean, really it just depends on the kid. So those are the emotions that we had to deal with this morning,” Tew said.

The children were allowed to draw or do an activity in remembrance of Hailey in an effort to help students grieve in their own way.

“Parent send their kids to us, it’s their most precious gift. And our obligation as educators is to take care of those kids and do what’s best for them. And you know, again that’s what we’re called to do and wavering from that is an injustice,” Tew said.

Tew sent out a letter to Westport parents acknowledging the difficult days ahead, and that they will continue to make their students feel safe.

The school also released a list of tips on interacting with a child who is experiencing a crisis:

Keep your child informed and updated. Children need to feel involved and as in control as much as possible.

Watch for signs of distress. Loss of appetite, aggression, acting out, being withdrawn, sleeping disordered and other behavior changes can indicate problems.

Send your child to school if possible. The stability and routine of a familiar situation will help young people feel more secure.

Remember that everyone reacts to stress and/or grief in different ways. There is no one way to act in a crisis situation.

Allow children the opportunity to express feelings. It is important to validate these feelings.

A good diet and plenty of exercise are important for children who are under stress. Encourage your child to eat well and get plenty of exercise.

Be honest about your own concerns, but stress your and you child’s ability to cope with the situation.

Respect a child’s need to grieve.

Provide somewhere private and quiet for your child to go.

Be available and listen to your child.

Remember to take care of yourself.