Summer vacation is upon us, and school kids around the Commonwealth are enjoying their freedom. For kids in Watertown, though, the time off may remind them of their week off from school in April when they were under lockdown as police searched for a terrorist in their backyards. To help with post-attack recovery, Combined Jewish Philanthropies brought six specialists from the Israel Trauma Coalition for Response and Preparedness (ITC) to work with the Watertown public school staff. About a month ago, I talked with Jason DelPorto, vice principal of Watertown Middle School and vice chair of the district’s critical incident team, about the experience and how the kids and teachers are coping.
It’s been a little over a month since the Boston Marathon bombings, the shoot-out and the lockdown. How are your students doing?
Remarkably well. The crisis plan put together post-incident and the training with the Israeli Trauma Coalition really worked. The school community met on Sunday to discuss how to triage on Monday. The hope was to make sure the experience was normal and routinized. There were layers of triage: the guidance counselors, the teachers, the bus drivers. With the help of the ITC, it went beyond the school district; it worked with local religious organizations and social services. I say that it’s gone remarkably well, but we still have students who are dealing with the trauma.
What did the trauma team tell you to tell your students, and, maybe more important, what did they tell you not to tell them?
The big thing, which is also what Children’s Hospital continued to teach us to say, is, “This was abnormal, but your responses were normal.”
I read that you used art to help the kids work through their feelings.
The ITC spent three days working with the staff, social workers and guidance counselors. They taught us how to use art as a multi-sensory tool to help us express and understand what happened.
On a personal note, do you have any plans to travel this summer? Perhaps to Israel?
I’m looking at my resources and am hoping to expand my experiences. Combined Jewish Philanthropies brought a wisdom and humanity to the situation by bringing the Israeli Trauma Coalition to Watertown. I’m looking to the state, government and CJP for continued funding.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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