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Schools offer counseling for grieving students

"Almost as quickly as terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Central Kitsap School District principals were mobilizing staffs and deciding how to explain the national tragedy in the classroom.All after-school activities were cancelled Sept. 11, and all televisions and radios were turned off in elementary schools, according to Jody Scott, the district's director of elementary teaching and learning. When kids watch TV nonstop, they tend to get more scared, said Shirley Kenmochi, principal of Jackson Park Elementary School. At local high schools, principals and teachers laid out talking points for useful classroom discussions and tried to ensure students would get the most up-to-date facts, said Lee Marcum, CKDS's director of secondary teaching and learning.I think some of the discussions were rumor control - kids thought the White House was on fire, said Joan Storkman, comprehensive counseling specialist for the Central Kitsap School District.In high school classes, teachers decided whether or not to turn on the news, Storkman said. Both high school and elementary teachers are grappling with how to educate students to channel their anger inappropriately - not to take it out on people of Middle Eastern origin.This is a good time to renew emphasis on tolerance of diversity ... Just because you see somebody who is Middle Eastern doesn't mean they believe in what happened, Marcum said.District officials had worried that copycat threats might be made at the schools, but those fears were unfounded, Marcum said.Storkman said school support staff - such as nurses, counselors, psychologists and principals - had been trained in crisis response. A handful of students were traumatized enough to need counseling.Storkman added that she was pleased parents felt their children were in good hands at the schools. Most parents felt schools were a safe place and most students were happy to be there, Storkman said. "

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