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Chardon: Crisis and Recovery
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Chardon: Crisis and Recovery

Careful response, compassion make the difference in aftermath of nation’s deadliest high school shooting in six years.

Help the healing

As the Chardon community heals, the school district’s ongoing priority is to provide appropriate resources that students, staff and families need to deal with the recent tragedy.

A healing fund, in care of United Way Services of Geauga County, has been established and is available for the Chardon community, including individuals, families and local institutions. Due to the potential long-term side effects of this tragedy, the fund will be open indefinitely.

In the month following the shootings, local businesses, organizations, individuals and students have given more than $500,000 to the fund.

In addition to these donations, the Chardon High School’s baseball team was invited to practice at Progressive Field, the home the Cleveland Indians, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers donated 4,000 tickets to Chardon students, teachers and family members. A group of 30 local chefs held dinners at two restaurants, with proceeds going to the Chardon fund.

Deposits in the name of Chardon Healing Fund can be made at any PNC Banking Office or by mailing to: United Way Services of Geauga County, 209 Center St., Unit H, Chardon, OH 44024.

Presidents of Chardon’s three affected local associations are grateful for the overwhelming response of OEA affiliates across the state. Local leaders request that any cards, gifts or communications be made through staff in the OEA office in Mentor who will make sure the communications are delivered to the appropriate person.

Please send condolences to local presidents Chardon Education Association, President, Tammy Segulin, Chardon Association of Classified Employees, President, Ferd Wolfe, and
Auburn Career & Technical Association, President, Bob Hill, in care of the following address: Ohio Education Association, 5804 Heisley Road, Mentor OH 44060.

On February 27, a 17-year-old student sat down at a cafeteria table at Chardon High School and pulled a gun from a bag. Then he stood up and began shooting.

Minutes later, those at the 1,100-student school said they heard screams, as the first 911 calls were made, teachers locked down classrooms, and students started sending text messages to friends and parents.

Student Daniel Parmertor, 16, died of his wounds hours after the shooting. StudentRussell King Jr., 17, died early February 28; and Demetrius Hewlin, 16, died later that day. Wounded students, Joy Rickers, 18, and Nick Walczak survived that attack.

The defendant in the shootings, T.J. Lane, a sophomore at Lake Academy, an alternative high school for at-risk students, was arrested after being chased out of the cafeteria by a teacher. He later confessed to authorities that hefired 10 rounds from a .22-caliber pistol and had chosen his victims at random.

Lane has been charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated attempted murder and one count of felonious assault. His next scheduled court hearing is on April 3, when the judge will determine whether he should be tried as an adult. Under Ohio law, if the Geauga County Prosecutor can show probable cause that Lane committed the crimes he is charged with, the teen’s case will move to adult court where Lane could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted.

Rapid response           

As the students, educators and residents of Chardon have struggled to understand the nation’s deadliest shooting at a high school in six years, each has been part of the critical recovery effort that began on February 27 and will continue for a long time to come.

The response to the tragedy involved the collaborative and careful response of first responders, school administrators, the Chardon Education Association (Local President Tammy Segulin), Chardon Association of Classified Employees (Local President Ferd Wolfe) and Chardon Career & Technical Association (Local President Bob Hill), OEA Labor Relations Consultants (LRCs) Todd Jaeck and Kim Lane (Mentor office) and the OEA Crisis Response Team.

Immediately following the shootings on February 27, high school students were evacuated one room at time with assistance from law enforcement. Parents were notified to report to Maple Elementary School via ConnectEd and staff organized a sign-out procedure to reunite students with their parents. Parents of the injured students were privately notified.

Later that morning, Chardon High School staff met with the administration and law enforcement for updates on the injured and on the suspect.

On February 28, a District Response Team including building administrators, the district communications director, heads of law enforcement, mental health professionals, local clergy and local association representativesassembled to outline plans for the remainder of the school week.

Two days after the deadly shooting, the district called faculty and staff together for updates from the administration and law enforcement and for grief counseling. On March 1, staff returned to the school buildings and parents and students were invited to return to the high school for a walk-through and to meet with counselors. On March 2, all schools reopened.

As the Chardon tragedy unfolded, OEA’s 16-member Crisis Response Team began its work with locals and made preparations to meet with staff when they returned to work. A group of OEA staff and one school counselor, the Crisis Response Team is trained to provide intervention services for education staff in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or violent incident that occurs while students are in school or that is otherwise related to a school or campus site.

Although school staff and students had practiced lockdown drills and evacuation procedures with local law enforcement during the past three years, they had hoped that these would remain drills. Local leaders like Chardon Education Association President Tammy Segulin explained that they had never practiced how to handle the aftermath of a real crisis.

On March 5, team members Kim Lane, Bill Pearsol, Cindy Petersen, Tom Williams, Lori Morgan and therapy dog, Bella—assisted teachers and education support professionals at Chardon High School and at the Auburn Career Center as they began the healing process.Key to their work was offering resources and emotional support to help restore a sense of safety and security within the schools and community.

The following week, Crisis Response Team members Lane, Betty Elling, Suzanne Kaszar, Morgan and Bella, continued to meet with staff at both the high school and middle school as the reality of the incident was beginning to surface.

Through the end of the school year, local law enforcement will be present at the high school and grief counselors and therapy dogs will be on site to assist students and staff. Substitute teachers will also be available for any teacher who needs time away from the classroom.

Segulin shared the gratitude of the locals for the help of the OEA Crisis Response Team, LRCs Jaeck and Lane, OEA Communications Consultant Gary Carlile and the NEA for their assistance and resources. She said the NEA Crisis Guide, http://crisisguide.neahin.org/crisisguide/, has proven especially beneficial and that the Chardon administrative team, communications director, mental health professionals and teachers have since incorporated its guidelines and ideas into their crisis plan.

“While there is no perfect model for handling a crisis,” Segulin said, “the guidelines provide a meaningful and thoughtful approach to helping Chardon heal and memorialize our fallen and injured students.”

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