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Schools around Kansas City try to help students cope with trauma from Chiefs parade shooting

Fans celebrate along the parade route after the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl LVIII February 14, 2024. Kansas City could see at least a million fans downtown for a victory parade and rally Wednesday. The Chiefs are the NFL's first back-to-back Super Bowl champions in two decades.
Julie Denesha
/
KCUR 89.3
Fans celebrate along the parade route after the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl LVIII. A shooting near the end of the rally at Union station left one person dead and at least 21 more injured.

Nine children were shot on Wednesday near the end of the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl rally. Schools are providing counseling services to help students cope with the emotional fallout.

Schools around the Kansas City area are preparing to address the mental and emotional toll on students of the deadly shooting Wednesday at the downtown celebration for the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl win.

Many area school districts canceled classes on Wednesday so that students and families could attend the parade and rally outside of Union Station, which is where gunfire broke out, leaving one person dead and 22 injured.

The Kansas City Police Department said at a news conference this morning that at least half of the victims are under the age of 16. Children's Mercy Hospital said all 11 of its minor victims range in age from six to 15 years old and nine of the children were shot.

Jennifer Collier, superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools, said in a message to families that it’s crucial to recognize that students may be grappling with the aftermath.

“Some may have witnessed the chaos firsthand, while others may have absorbed snippets of news coverage at home,” Collier said. “Even those who were physically distant from the scene can sense the gravity of the situation through the reactions of the adults around them.”

Collier said school administrators and counselors are ready to offer resources to students or staff who need it.

She also offered resources for guiding conversations with children about distressing news events like limiting exposure to live news coverage, initiating dialogue, providing context with care, and validating emotions.

“Acknowledge both your child's feelings and your own,” Collier said. “By expressing your own emotions, you demonstrate that it's okay to feel scared, angry, or sad in the face of tragedy.”

The Shawnee Mission School District told families in an email last night that counselors and social workers would be available at all of its buildings starting Thursday and for as long as needed to support students.

“We will proceed with a normal day tomorrow because we know that our children often crave the security of routines when times are hard,” Superintendent Michelle Hubbard said. “At the same time, we will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary, so that each student receives the support that they need.”

Students also returned to school today in the Hickman Mills School District. A district spokesperson said in an email that the administration is still determining how the shooting would affect school, but counselors are in its buildings to support students and staff.

The district said it also shared resources with staff about supporting students through trauma.

Olathe Public Schools said on Facebook that many of its students, families and staff attended the rally or watched from home. It said school counselors, administrators and educators are available at schools to support students.

North Kansas City Schools said that support for students is also its focus.

“Staff members have resources available to assist students who may be experiencing a range of emotions,” a district spokesperson said. “School counselors and leaders will also be available to speak with those who may need time and space to process the events.”

School districts in Lee’s Summit and Kearney also told families that schools are prepared to provide additional support for students and employees and encouraged them to contact their child’s school counselor, teacher or building leader if their child needs extra support.

Other school districts in the area, including Kansas City Public Schools and the Blue Valley School District, were already scheduled to close until Tuesday because of parent teacher conferences, professional development and President’s Day.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.