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Orange County Schools Try to Explain Tragedy

Kim Hoke, spokeswoman for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said teachers braced for counseling on Tuesday morning when terrorist attacks took place at three sites along the East Coast.

Crisis teams of six to eight teachers or administrators at every school in the district met Tuesday morning to map out the school's plan to discuss the crisis.

Hoke said most classes of older children discussed the events in New York and Washington, D.C., while most teachers with younger children continued with a normal lesson plan. "We've just been trying to help children realize there is good in the world and that most adults have good intentions," Hoke said.

Hoke also said school district members were trying to help children understand that the terrorism was the act of a small group of people and not an entire race. "This is not a time to be disrespectful to people who are in our community," she said. "We try to be true to our core values and beliefs and keep an appreciation for all people."

In efforts to alleviate the shock of the tragedy, Hoke said both Chapel Hill high schools used 20 to 30 minutes to meet in small discussion groups before school began Wednesday.

Schools also sent a paper home with children Tuesday and Wednesday, offering advice to parents about how to talk to their children about the tragic events.

But deciding how to address the discussions at school was a delicate issue, said Merna Galassi, guidance counselor at Seawell Elementary School. "We didn't want to send kids on the bus and have them get really scared (by rumors)," Galassi said. "And (we're) also not trying to take this away from parents."

Galassi also said counselors dealt with children's questions, including one child who wondered why the four hijacked airplanes crashed. "He asked, `Do you think the windows were dirty and they didn't clean them?' We had to say `no,'" she said.

Galassi said the faculty at her school were still trying to cope with grief. "There are many people in the building who had ties to New York," she said. "This is one of those situations where it is not just the children."

But Andrea Hussong, a professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Psychology, said children are conscious of adults' reactions.

"Pay attention to how you're responding so that you don't overwhelm (the children)." Hussong said.

She also recommended that both adults and children take a break from television broadcasts concerning the event. "Do something positive so that you're not constantly exposed to stress," she said.

Hoke added that school could offer solace for children.

"It is important for children to return to their normal routine," Hoke said. "That's perhaps one of the most important things the schools have provided."

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