February 9, 2018


Dear Parents and Guardians-


Thank you for your continued communication and outreach. We are deeply moved by your care for our community, and we appreciate your input and your questions as we grieve Emma’s loss and work together to provide our students with what they need.


The structure of support for our students has shifted a bit since last week. Initially we offered group sessions to any student feeling impacted by this tragedy who wanted time to process with peers. School counselors and social workers from HMS and other schools in our district facilitated these groups. Students spent time together, talked about how they were feeling, and engaged in calming activities.


Given close consultation and collaboration with our school’s mental health professionals, and Greg Marley, the Clinical Director of NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) Maine, we’re aware of the need to help students access their regular routines after a loss. We know that middle school students need normalcy and a chance to engage in their daily schedules as a way to balance the pain and confusion that occurs after the unexpected loss of a peer. Focusing exclusively on this kind of loss can further negatively impact students. We’re mindful of that, and do not force these conversations with students who may not be ready or able to process them.


The majority of our students have been able to return to their classes and routines with assistance from the HMS staff. It’s encouraging to see them working, playing, and laughing together in the midst of such profound sadness. We’re continuing to provide specific, individual and small group support for students who are significantly impacted by this loss.


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to grief. This is especially true given the diverse needs of middle school students. Experts on the adolescent grieving process note that school-wide assemblies about this topic may elicit strong feelings for students this age, which are not best addressed in a large group structure.


Please let us know if you feel that your child needs assistance for any reason. We’ll review the options for support and partner with you to ensure that your child receives what she/he needs.


We hope that you’re able to join us for the community gathering, scheduled for Monday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. This event will be held at Yarmouth High School. We’ll continue our learning about how we can best support our children and each other during this heartbreaking time. Greg Marley will facilitate the evening. Mr. Marley is a leading expert in suicide prevention and response in Maine. He has been working with our staff throughout this week. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, or if we can help in any way. We’ve attached the resources from our school counselor and social workers, which was sent out last week.


For those of you who have asked about reaching out to Emma’s family, you can send cards and correspondence to HMS and we’ll deliver them for you.


We’re inspired by your children’s grit and perseverance and grateful for the kind words of support you’ve shared with us. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, or if we can help in any way.


Joan Adler and Tom McDowell, HMS Administrative Team