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School counselors encourage parents to talk with kids following Nashville school shooting

Experts say parents should open up the conversation and allow their children to lead.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Counselors across America have the daunting task of once more helping students feel safe in classes after six people were killed in a school shooting in Nashville.

It can be especially difficult at schools where students have already dealt with trauma. 

St. Paul Public Schools has been opening up the conversation for weeks now about school safety after a student was killed in a stabbing at Harding High School.

Juli Montgomery-Riess is the lead middle school counselor, and a mom, at St. Paul Public Schools. She says students have become almost numb to school shootings.

"I think, unfortunately, we're pretty normed and desensitized to it, I do," said Montgomery-Riess.

But when incidents like what happened in Nashville occur, it can bring up past traumas.

"It could bring up feelings that surface old trauma, and they need to process that with their support," said Montgomery-Riess. 

Last month, a 15-year-old was stabbed and killed at Harding High. 

Montgomery-Riess said that while what happened in Nashville is very different than what happened at Harding, there's support in place if any past trauma is reignited. 

"Ultimately, all we can do is address a feeling of safety," said Montgomery-Riess. "We can never say with certainty, 'You will be safe.' And so I think we do that primarily through positive rituals and routines." 

Montgomery-Riess said the thought of never being 100% certain will always make her nervous as a mother. 

"I have some anxiety," she said. "I was just talking with my sixth-grade student, and I just asked if he knew about the shooting."

She said it's important to open up the conversation with your children who may be old enough to know that a shooting occurred, but it's important to limit media exposure or to share too many details.

"I would suggest starting with something like, 'What do you know about what happened?'" said Montgomery-Riess. "And allow your child to share."

If you're worried your student may be traumatized by yesterday's event, school counselors say you should contact them.

St. Paul Public Schools will have another community meeting about school safety this Thursday.


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