Archive for Monday, September 18, 2006

Counselors brought in to help students deal with fire fatalities

Crisis Response Team helping at several schools

September 18, 2006, 12:36 p.m. Updated September 18, 2006, 4:14 p.m.


Crisis response teams helped students and school staff today at New York and Central Junior High schools deal with Sunday's deadly East Lawrence residential fire, whose five victims included two students.

Toward the end of the school day Monday, authorities announced that the victims included Nolan Vender, 13, a Central Junior High eighth-grader, and Davonte Brockman, 11, a sixth-grader at New York.

Central's principal, Frank Harwood, said he had told students about the fire at the beginning of the day and later let them know their classmate was indeed one of the victims.

"A letter is going home to parents with kind of an explanation that we've been available to students, but a lot of times they don't start grieving right away and that if there are problems, to call us and we can help out," Harwood said.

The letter will ask parents to keep an eye on the behavior of their children.

"The thing about a death of someone so young, is that even students who didn't know him well can be affected by knowing someone that young has died," Harwood said.

Harwood said the school will work with the family through the grieving process.

"Right now, we're going to try to cooperate with the family and help thing with the kinds of things they're trying to do," he said. "We're going to see what the students feel like they need and we'll work from there."

Letters were also being sent home to New York Elementary parents.

Nancy DeGarmo, principal at New York, referred questions to the school district's main office.

"We have a family of grieving adults and students here, who we're trying to manage and hold together for a day," DeGarmo said.

Supt. Randy Wesemen sent out a statement on Monday afternoon:

"On behalf of the Lawrence Public Schools, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the Glover family," Weseman said. "Our school communities are grieving this tragic loss and working together to support students, staff, and one another during this most difficult time."

The school district's Crisis Response Team, which is a group of volunteers who serve on an on-call basis, were called upon to help students and staff at Central and New York.

Four other elementary schools - Schwegler, Woodlawn, Pinckney and East Heights - which all have connections to the children, either through friends or close family ties, are also being provided with information and counseling, according to Donna Patton-Bryant, assistant director of special education who is in charge of the district's Crisis Response Team.

Bruce Passman, deputy superintendent, said students and staff are going "through a variety of emotional waves in anticipation of what the news might be."

"When something like this happens, everybody is kind of tongue-tied and doesn't know how to respond," Patton-Bryant said.

The Crisis Response Team includes mental health professionals from Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, social workers and school psychologists, counselors, teachers, nurses and administrators, Patton-Bryant said.

The team, which has been working since Sunday afternoon, provided principals and teachers at the schools with guidelines on how to handle giving out information and what to expect in terms of student responses, she said.

"Some act out, some are quiet, some write," Patton-Bryant said.

She said "safe rooms" have been set up where students can go to be quiet or draw or make banners.

Passman said junior high students often have a wide range of reactions to a major tragedy.

"In our culture, we've dealt with death in a very quiet way," Passman said. "We expect people to deal with the issue of death and get on with their lives and we don't talk about it much as a culture." The crisis team helps to provide information and help people deal with grief in such tragedies, he said.

The crisis team was brought in nine times last year to be available to students and school staff, he said.


OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 8 months ago

No comments on this thread.

It seems that this incredible tragedy is too much for words.

Amy Bartle 11 years, 8 months ago

I'm extremely sad for the loss this family has experienced.

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