Published: May 29, 2012 06:45 PM
Modified: May 29, 2012 06:46 PM
CHAPEL HILL - email@example.com
Children affected by Friday’s shooting at a Chapel Hill elementary school may need reassurances that their teachers – and their parents – are not going anywhere, a police crisis counselor says.
Jim Huegerich heads the Chapel Hill Police Department’s crisis unit. His team has spent about 100 hours with Scroggs Elementary School staff and families since Ali Cherfaoui was charged with fatally shooting his estranged wife Chahnaz Kebaier outside the school, 30 minutes before dismissal time.
The shots could be heard blocks away, residents said. The school was put on lock down and students eventually left through a side door.“You’ve got kids of all ages,” Huegerich said Tuesday. “For some, it trips (reminders of) other traumas. ...They need reassurances that mom and dad aren’t going to leave them.”
Heugerich offered three tips:
• Return to normal – In a message to parents Monday night, principal Keri Litwak said a planned chorus concert Tuesday would go on as scheduled. “Kids need normal,” Huegerich said. ‘Let’s you and I get some ice cream. Let’s sit down and watch a movie.”
• Provide assurances – Children take their cues from adults. But while adults may want information, children want to know life goes on. “If we as adults help to model what’s next – that we as a community are going to come out of this stronger, not weaker – they’re going to come out of this OK,” he said.
• Keep eyes and ears open – It’s OK to wait for children to ask or talk about the shooting, he said. “If you think your kid is acting differently touch base with them,” he said. If you think your child is having a serious or prolonged reaction to a traumatic event, contact a professional such as the school counselor.
Huegerich, who has grandchildren in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system, said Scroggs did “a phenomenal job” responding to the shooting, quickly locking down and “almost immediately” notifying parents.
Principal Keri Litwak sent out an email at 2:20 p.m. Friday saying dismissal would be late, that someone had been injured but that all children were safe. Litwak followed up at 4:21 p.m. with more information, including that a suspect was in custody and the phone number of the school social worker.