What can you do for a hurting community? How do you share solidarity from a long way away?…is a question Murray Burton, principal of Elim Christian College, asked in wake of the Christchurch massacre.
“It has to be immediate and practical…you do it with a universal word, love,” says Burton.
“We wanted to send the Muslim community a message of love and we hope it went to them,” he says of the human formation of love created by Year 7-10 students at the school’s sports field.
An aerial image was shot by a drone and shared on social media.
The littlies at school had, meanwhile, created figurines and wrote loving messages for the victims on the back of the figurines.
The prefects led a moving assembly, brought flowers and shared messages of condolence with the rest of the school. They invited students and teachers to local mosques and left flowers and messages outside.
“It’s important to navigate your way through the fact that the violence shown by the gunman on social media has been witnessed by a lot of students,” says Burton.
“We have to put a shield around and protect our children from it, more, since we live in a multi-cultural society where a lot of children have moved with their families from countries of political unrest and violence, only to feel safe here.
“We need to walk through the journey with them and help manage an outpouring of grief.”
Talking about safety issues that educators need to be now mindful of, he says that with schools traditionally being open communities, it’s time to take a fresh look at tighter security.
“Schools are very vulnerable especially when you look at new buildings with glass. Do we know what to do if there is a crisis? The children can stand down on the floor but someone marauding with a rifle can still look through the glass.”
He cautions that there is a dire need to be smart and not take anything for granted.
“Also with schools having big events like concerts and sporting events, it’s important to have conversations about who is in the car park or outside the door, when the events are on.”
About Elim Christian College, he says that the new addition at the school is wired up and will feature CCTV cameras connected to his phone.
“Fortunately, we are a gated school. Every school is now looking at entry and exit points with training given to staff to be more vigilant.
“After all, we have a duty of care to families who send their children to our schools. We have to ensure that every assistance will be given to our children to make sure they are safe mentally and physically.”