St. Lucie County schools bring in extra support for students after mass shooting

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 5:55 PM EST
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Students in St. Lucie Public Schools are receiving extra mental health and counseling support following the deadly mass shooting at Ilous Ellis Park in Fort Pierce on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The day after the shooting, the school district immediately began supporting some of its campuses that requested extra help. Two counselors at five schools like Chester A. Moore Elementary School.

By the second day after the shooting, the number of schools with additional support grew to seven.

"People just want to be able to have fun and have a gathering," parent Eartha Williams said. "We want to be safe. Students want to be safe with a nice gathering. Everybody getting together without violence."

Williams is still shaken up about the MLK Day shooting, so she knows kids are, too.

"There’s a lot of kids that are going through things," Williams said. "When stuff happens like that, they are terrified and they shut themselves off from the parent."

That's why Williams is glad to see St. Lucie Public Schools stepping in.

"Our mood on the campuses has been one of support," said Heather Roland, the executive director of exceptional student education and student services for St. Lucie Public Schools.

Roland said counselors are meeting with students individually and in groups.

"We really just create that safe space for them to be able to talk about what happened, and we allow for their questions to be the guide for the way we will respond," Roland said.

At Chester A. Moore Elementary School, Fort Pierce police brought in a victim advocate to talk to children about what they may have experienced or heard about.

"Our elementary students are having a little more difficulty processing, and so we’ve concentrated some of our efforts there," Roland said.

"He didn’t want to come to school the day after, which I said, that’s fine with everything happening," parent Tamy Walker said. "I just hate all the hatred."

As Walker waited for her teenage son after school on Thursday, she expressed hope that everyone can get the care they need.

"I'm sure there are kids who need help. And possibly the teachers can sense they need help and they’ll give them extra attention," Walker said.

St. Lucie Public Schools said that extra support will continue as long as it's needed.

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