LOS ANGELES -- Southlanders today were urged to talk to their children "in a calm way" about the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut that left 27 people dead, including the gunman and 20 students.

"Our sympathies and prayers go out to everyone associated with the terrible tragedy today at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the community of Newtown ...," sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said.

"Your children will hear about this incident through friends or others, and so, talking with them about it in a calm way is a good idea," Parker said. "Give them a chance to talk about how they feel, reassure them, and help them -- and you -- not to feel overwhelmed."

Parker said schools "are one of the safest places kids can be" and law enforcement personnel in county jurisdiction will beef up patrols around campuses.

"Yet we know that a tragedy like this causes great concern ... (and) as a result, you will notice an increase in presence by deputies near schools today and for the next several days," Parker said.

"Please feel free to speak with the deputies you see and ask questions or comment about what is on your mind about school safety," Parker said.