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Hancock Co. Schools to offer grief counseling

Updated: Monday, January 20 2014, 02:24 PM EST

By: Jennifer Black

Not long after a fatal crash Saturday night on Route 8 in New Cumberland that claimed the lives of Oak Glen High School students Kristyn Butcher, Kaylin Rice and John Emmett Snow III, school administrators and counselors sprang into action.

"For some of these children, this is their first experience with death, so they don't know how to grasp the concept.  They’re kind of struggling with their own feelings of uncertainly," Hancock County Schools head counselor Mary Ann Petrelle said.

Administrators and counselors met over the weekend and again on Monday.  Petrelle met with Hancock County Superintendent Sue Smith to discuss first reaching out to teachers.

"They're affected as well, and these are their students.  Our plan is to assist the teachers in dealing with their feelings with grief and loss, and then to help them help the students,” Petrelle said.

Petrelle said the important thing for parents to do is look for signs.  If your child is withdrawn or isolated for an extended period of time, then they may need to seek additional counseling.

Brooke County Schools has offered its counselors if Hancock needs the additional assistance, and right now Petrelle said students just need someone to listen to them.

"It doesn't lie in the answer that you give them, it lies in just listening to them and allowing them to express themselves,” Petrelle said.

One of the ways students will be able to do that is with a memorial wall inside Oak Glen High School.

"(It's) where the students can leave messages and express themselves through words on a paper, that's posted on a wall, and they can share their thoughts and give condolences," Petrelle said.  "If you can model the fact that you grieve too, then we hopefully will be able to help them have some healthy grief.”

A candlelight vigil has been planned for Monday at 7 p.m. at Tomlinson Run State Park.  Organizers ask that people planning to attend bring their own candles to help honor the victims of Saturday’s tragic accident.

Hancock Co. Schools to offer grief counseling

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