Dear Belmont-Redwood Shores Community,

As we head into the weekend of a sad and challenging week, I wanted to confirm with you that there have been no announcements from the Belmont Police Department regarding Monday's shooting since this announcement that was shared with you on Tuesday afternoon. I have great confidence in the Belmont Police Department, and they have marshaled resources across the Bay Area to pursue this investigation with the strength, expertise, and urgency that it deserves.

Ensuring all of our students' well-being, safety, and sense of security is our top priority. Next week, I will receive guidance from the San Mateo County Office of Education regarding physical security on K-12 school campuses. We expect to use that document as a starting point to develop common criteria for physical security at all District schools. From there, we expect to apply those criteria to each school and make facilities improvements as needed. For example, we expect to add more bollards to prevent vehicle access to our campuses and will consider adding security cameras at our schools. I will keep you informed of our progress in this work and of the opportunities that you will have to provide input both in the development of District physical security criteria as well as the site-specific application of those criteria.

Additionally, I want you to know of the guidance that we provided to BRSSD staff districtwide yesterday evening. I apologize that this guidance was not distributed earlier in the week. Going forward, we will standardize these materials and protocols to be better prepared for conversations with students regarding traumatic events in the future. That being said, I want you to know our approach to talking about this incident with students. Also, you may find the guidance useful for future conversations you have with your children about this incident or traumatic events in general.

Excerpt of Guidance from Superintendent to BRSSD Staff
Thursday, January 10, at 10pm

Student discussions of the shooting have moved well beyond the campuses of Central and Ralston. I expect that students may raise the shooting with you as well. Here are guidelines for managing those discussions:

  • Please do your best to monitor students' conversations, behaviors and emotions.
  • If students ask you about the incident or raise it with you, follow the guidelines below.  
  • If students are discussing the shooting in ways that are potentially harmful (exaggeration, speculation, excessive detail), I encourage you to intervene following the guidance below. Engage the relevant students. That is, if a small group of students are engaged in such a conversation, you should pull them away from the rest of the class and talk with that small group of students. I do not want you to address an entire classroom unless you feel that a critical mass of students in that class are discussing the shooting. Bottom line, I trust you to use your professional judgment. 
  • If a student appears to be anxious, emotionally overwhelmed, persistently sad, or otherwise affected in a way that concerns you, please refer that student to your school's principal/administrative team, [who will arrange for direct support from a school psychologist or counselor and contact the student's parent/guardian]. 
  • If you discuss the shooting with a student, please inform the student's parent.   

Ways to respond to students who ask about or mention the incident:

What would you say to 1st-3rd grader?
  1. There was an accident that happened on campus and it is ok to be sad. Lots of people in the community are sad as well. 
  2. I see that you are feeling (insert feeling word). It is ok to feel that way. Lots of students seem to be feeling that as well.  
  3. It is ok that you are (feeling word). Can you talk to you Mom and Dad about how you are feeling?
  4. If the student is persistently sad or seems unable to cope, then refer to principal.

It is important to point out a feeling word with younger children and if possible encourage them to speak to their parents or the school psychologist about that feeling/feelings.

What would you say to 3-5th grader?
  1. Bad things happen to good people. It is a hard thing to understand.
  2. See responses for 1st-3rd also.
  3. A previous student, age 17, who went to Central School a long time ago, died in the parking lot, late at night. It is safe at school now.
  4. The police are investigating.
  5. If the student is persistently sad or seems unable to cope, then refer to principal.

What would you say to 6-8th grader?
  1. It’s ok to feel sad or confused. A lot of people in the community feel the same way. It is ok to feel this way.
  2. If students ask for specifics, then give the brief facts, as described in the police press release. A former Central/Ralston student, who was 17 at the time, was in the Central School parking lot late at night and was shot. (see original police press release; and subsequent release). 
  3. The police are investigating this. 
  4. If the student is persistently sad or seems unable to cope, then refer to principal.

In general,
  • Reassure that students are safe at school. 
  • Reassure that the teacher feels safe. 
  • Inform that there are people called psychologists or counselors who work at a school who can help students who are feeling very sad or scared. That is part of their job. Students can come to you to ask about talking to one of those people.
  • Explain that the police are investigating this. 

[End of excerpt.]

We will continue to keep you informed of developments. You are welcome to reply to me directly with comments or questions.


Michael Milliken