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Connecticut teachers prepared to talk Texas with students

Kelly L'Heureux, Meriden's 2018 Teacher of the Year, who's taught at various levels in Meriden, says addressing students following tragedies is not one size fits all

MERIDEN, Conn — Connecticut teachers, coming off of over two years of COVID challenges now have to address another mass school shooting, nearly ten years after the Sandy Hook massacre changed how schools operate.

Kelly L'Heureux, Meriden's 2018 Teacher of the Year, who's taught at various levels in Meriden, says addressing students following tragedies is not one size fits all.

"In first grade, you would do something more of just let's just draw how we are all feeling today because you really don't want to frighten small children," said L'Heureux, who taught first grade for 30 years before moving to Thomas Edison Middle School recently.

RELATED: Hartford non-profit gets $630,000 to combat gun violence

She says social media factors into the approach at middle school.

"I actually did a poll of each class when kids started to ask and I said 'who knows about this' and most of my students raised their hands," said the Edison science teacher.

But having a game plan in place before coming into school Wednesday was key.

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"So that we kinda have our talking points in our head and if this happens this is how we'll handle it and if it doesn't happen we're not bringing it up," she said.

And an important component in teachers creating ease is projecting a confident and calm demeanor. And first, she'll ask students what they've heard.

"Nope that's not true and that is true," L'Heureux said. "We don't get into specifics. It's too graphic. I don't Google it. We don't bring up a news report on it. It's just being there for the students to answer the questions."

RELATED: Youth mental health experts address Texas school shooting

Much has changed in Connecticut schools since the Sandy Hook tragedy nearly 10 years ago.

"All of our doors are locked and we have swipe cards that need to be in place," said Jocelyn DeLancey, Vice President for the Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union. "We have campus monitors and resource officers."

But some are asking for more, including metal detectors in all schools in New Haven.

"There are more items of knives and BB guns that are coming through K through 8 then coming to the high schools," said Rev. Dr. Boise Kimber of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association.

New Haven's high schools currently have metal detectors, but the other levels don't. 

But how are the teachers and other school staff members doing?

"Right away you put yourself in those teachers (shoes) that were slain and those students who were killed and you're just your heart just breaks," said L'Heureux. "I can go home and cry and I can cry before I came to school, which I did yesterday in the driveway with my husband."

But she says she has to wear a brave face for the students in school, where she feels safe.

"I feel very secure in the fact that we have a locked entry," she said. "You have to show ID. We have our school resource officer."

Tony Terzi is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tterzi@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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