ST. LOUIS — The world watched Monday morning as news broke about a former student storming a Nashville elementary school and fatally shooting three students and three staff members.
For some in St. Louis, the tragedy was chillingly similar to the shooting that happened last year at a local high school.
"I'm sure there's a round of shockness right now," VonDina Washington said. "My heart hurts for them."
Five months ago, Washington's 15-year-old son, Brian Collins, was shot in both wrists and his neck when a gunman opened fire inside a classroom at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School. His teacher and a classmate were both killed in the Oct. 26 shooting.
Washington said she can't stop thinking about the victims of the most recent school shooting.
"I can't imagine what those parents are going through," she said. "I know what those next few days look like for those parents, and I know what the next few weeks and months look like for the staff, and it's hard."
John McDonald, the COO and co-founder of The Council for School Safety Leadership, said he, unfortunately, wasn't surprised by the Nashville shooting.
McDonald, who is based in Columbia, Missouri, is nationally recognized for his work in school safety. He's responded to seven U.S. school shootings, including Sandy Hook and CVPA. Now, he's reaching out to this Tennessee school district.
"What we're seeing now is a callousness and an anger and a desire for retribution, and these people are not afraid to broadcast their intent," McDonald said.
According to the Associated Press, Monday's shooting in Nashville marked the 15th time since Columbine in 1999 that gun violence left four or more dead in a school in the U.S.
Just last week, St. Louis County schools adopted a color-coded system, with labels on doors, hallways and windows to minimize the time it takes for first responders to get to the place they're most needed.
Dr. Jameca Cooper, a licensed psychologist and adjunct professor at Webster University, said it's important for parents to waste no time before talking with their kids who witness a school shooting or see one in the news.
"Address those things head-on, the immediate concerns," Cooper said. "Reassure them. Make them feel safe."
There are several free resources available for students, teachers and parents who feel their mental health is being affected by gun violence.
The Ohel National Teacher Support Helpline offers teachers and school administrators free, confidential help navigating mental health and trauma-related issues for themselves and their students.
Safe Connections helps break the barriers of silence and isolation after experiencing trauma. Call the Safe Connections Crisis Helpline at 314-531-2003. You can also text that number from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, free of charge.
The Children's Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis offers a range of services for families, including a trauma-informed parenting group and short-term interventions immediately following trauma exposure.
Compass Health Network's Behavioral Health Crisis Centers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The centers serve those 18 and older who are dealing with a mental health crisis and are under- or uninsured. Those in crisis can also call toll-free at 888-237-4567.
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