Sparks Middle School shooting: Grief and healing one year later

Oct 21, 2014

Credit Washoe County Schools

One year ago, 12-year-old Jose Reyes opened fire at Sparks Middle School, killing teacher Michael Landsberry and himself, along with injuring two students. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports students and teachers are gathering Tuesday afternoon in the school's gymnasium to embrace, remember, and heal.

Instead of holding a formal, public event to mark this tragedy, administrators are opting for a quiet, unstructured get-together after classes let out. Overwhelmingly, students and staff have voiced their desire for a typical school day.

"We're all aware of what happened one year ago," says Area Superintendent Chad Hicks, "and it's something that will stay with us forever, but the most important thing is that, at this point, we really need to get back to a sense of normalcy."

Listen to an extended interview with Chad Hicks on what he's learned from this tragedy.

Since last year's shooting, the school has received large federal grants to provide trauma therapy on campus. That money also pays for a school police officer and a substitute teacher so that other teachers can  access mental healthcare.

"We're monitoring our teachers very closely," Hicks says. "There could be symptoms or signs of post traumatic stress. Our staff have been resilient through this whole process and strong, but it really takes monitoring on a day-to-day basis."
 
Katherine Loudon, the director of counseling for the district, says there is no set timeline or formula for grief.

"They can have shame and guilt and fear and anger," she explains, "or they may really suppress the feelings that they're having, so we want to design recovery around the individual needs of people and recognize that recovery can look different for everyone."

As that recovery effort continues, the school is trying to prevent future violence by working with students on understanding their emotions and exercising empathy.

Listen to an extended interview with Katherine Loudon about the recovery effort at Sparks Middle.