Parents keep children home from school in wake of Connecticut shooting, ponder home schooling

Schools insist safety, measures in place

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The deadly shooting that transpired in Newtown, Connecticut,  is having a big impact on parents throughout Palm Beach and St. Lucie County. Some on Monday were so concerned, they kept their children at home from school.

Gigi Mazzoli was one of those parents who did not want to leave her 8-year-old child, Gianna Mazzoli, in the classroom this week.

"She's the most important thing in my life. I don't take any chances. If I feel just a minor insecurity, she's not going to go to school," said Gigi Mazzoli.

Gianna's father, Mike Mazzoli, said when he went to drop her off at Palm Pointe Research School at Tradition, he did not notice extra security.

"We're not paranoid people. I would feel absolutely safe, but I would like them to have some armed security so if something like this were to happen, they wouldn't get that far," said Mike Mazzoli.

St. Lucie County School District Spokesperson Janice Karst sent out this statement:

"As safety of students and staff is of primary importance, each St. Lucie School District school and district facility has emergency and critical response plans developed in cooperation with local law enforcement, and school staff are trained in the plan specific to their facility. Superintendent Michael Lannon on Friday asked all principals to meet with their teams to review their school's emergency plans this week, which is standard practice for administrators, and which probably school districts across the country are doing this week. The superintendent also sent out an outbound telephone message to all parents and staff Friday evening urging parents to calm their children, and for staff to be alert to children who appear to need assurance this week. Each public school in St. Lucie County has at least one counselor on hand, depending on the size of the student body, who are trained in how to appropriately talk with students who may have questions or concerns after a tragedy has occurred. There are also crisis personnel in the district office that will go out to schools that express need of assistance. Student Services also shared with counselors and principals additional resources as to how to speak with children expressing grief and loss, as well as information from the DOE's department of Safe and Drug Free Schools. There have been some parents who have called expressing concerns about their child attending school today, and some may choose to keep their child home. And even though we already had been informed prior to the tragic incident that some families would be going away for winter break this week, attendance today is higher than this past Friday."

The Mazzoli family must now balance their business while their daughter stands by waiting to return to school. The parents are now considering other options.

"I'm not sure how I'm going to go about home schooling, but the thought is there. We will do whatever it takes to keep her safe," said Gigi Mazzoli.

The Florida Parent Educators Association said they have not experienced an increase in home schooling interest. A spokesperson told WPTV NewsChannel 5 interest has risen in the past during school violence situation and anticipate a jump in January.

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