PV Schools

Dear Putnam Valley Community:

Yesterday evening we were informed of the tragic death of one of our elementary school students, Fatima Martinez, a rising third grader.  Fatima has a two-year-old sister and an older brother who also attends our schools.  Fatima was a sweet and caring child, cherished and beloved by the Putnam Valley Elementary School family.  Our sincerest condolences go out to the Martinez family and to all who knew Fatima.  Her loss will have a deep and lasting impact.

As we process this tragic news, our school psychologists will be available today at the elementary school.  If you or your children are in need of support over the next few days, please don’t hesitate to call our Elementary School at (845)528-8092.

Attached below is an email from Ms. Podesta, our Elementary School Principal. We have also attached some resources that may provide guidance during this most difficult time.

Putnam Valley is a supportive community and I know we will come together to support one another and the Martinez family as we remember a beautiful child who brought love and joy to so many.


Dr. Frances Wills
Superintendent of Schools

Attached below:
Email from Ms. Podesta
Service information
National Assoc. of School Psychologists – Death and Grief/Supporting Children and Youth

*Below is an excerpt from Dr. Michele Borba, who is an internationally renowned consultant and educational psychologist.  It contains tips on talking to young children about death.

Break the news

My first and most important suggestion is that you don’t delay telling your children about what has happened: It’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells him/her. You don’t want them to hear from some other child, a television news report, or the headlines on the front page of the New York Post. You want to be able to convey the facts, however painful, and set the emotional tone. And you want to give your child as much time as possible to process the information, and his/her feelings about it, before he/she returns to school. Difficult conversations like this aren’t over in one session; expect to return to the topic as many times as your child needs to come to terms with this sad reality.

Answer questions

I suggest that you begin the conversation by telling your child that you have very sad news you need to talk about. Tell them about what has occurred. Tell him/her their names. Let them know that you feel sad about it.  Tears are okay. Where the conversation goes depends a lot on how old your children are, how well they knew the child who died, and how many questions they have. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions about whether the child suffered. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies. If they ask questions you can’t answer, it’s okay to tell them you don’t know.

Be reassuring

Talking about death is always difficult, but this kind of tragic accident is especially tough because of how egocentric children are: they’re likely to focus on whether something like this could happen to them. So it’s important to reassure you child about how unusual this kind of event is.

Help them express their feelings

In your conversation (and subsequent ones) you can suggest ways your child might remember his/her friend or classmate: tell stories about things you did together, draw pictures, etc.

Finally, here are some general guidelines for talking to kids about traumatic events.

1. Take your cues from your child.

Invite him/her to tell you what they have heard about the tragedy, and how they feel. Since many children aren’t able to express their emotions through words, other helpful outlets include drawing pictures, or telling stories about their memories of the classmate who died.

2. Be developmentally appropriate.

Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions.  Do your best to answer honestly and clearly.  It’s okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.

3. Focus on safety.

A child’s primary concern after this kind of tragedy may be whether it could happen to him. You can let him know that such events are very rare, that you place a high priority on safety, and are confident that he and your family are safe.

4. Be calm. 

It’s okay to let your child know if you’re sad, but if you talk to your child about a traumatic experience in a highly emotional way, then he will likely absorb your emotion and very little else. If, on the other hand, you remain calm, he/she is likely to grasp what’s important: that tragic events can upset our lives, even deeply, but we can learn from bad experiences and work together to grow stronger.

5. Be available.

If your child is upset, just spending time with him/her may make him/her feel safer. Children find great comfort in routines, and doing ordinary things together as a family may be the most effective form of healing.

6. Memorialize the children.

Drawing pictures, planting a tree, sharing stories, or releasing balloons can all be good, positive ways to help provide closure to a child. It’s important to assure your child that a person continues to live on in the hearts and minds of others.  And in doing something for others they will not only feel good about themselves but will learn a very healthy way to respond to grief.

File attachments: