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Helping Children Cope With School Shootings

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The Solace Tree is celebrating its ten year anniversary next month.

They're a non-profit, grief center in Reno that has touched the lives of more than 5,500 children and families torn apart by tragedy.

Lately, that tragedy has come in the form of school shootings.

"We are there to listen to them, not advise or give opinions," said Emilio Parga, executive director for The Solace Tree.

Parga has helped victims of unthinkable tragedies, like school shootings.

"We are seeing kids that have attended the elementary schools that surround Sparks Middle School and some of the families that go to Sparks Middle School come to The Solace Tree."

Parga said he's been counseling middle schoolers that were friends with Jose Reyes, the seventh grader, who shot two students and a teacher before turning the gun on himself at Sparks Middle School last October.

He said they are struggling with missing Jose and being angry at the same time because they know what he did was wrong.

I asked Parga why more and more students are shooting up their schools.

"From what we've learned, we believe, it's unresolved grief. We think children haven't had an opportunity to process their grief."

Sadly, the remnants of these senseless shootings are beginning to take a toll.

What's suppose to be a sanctuary for learning is far too often becoming a place of fear.

"I know that's a big concern for children and teens going into their school. They want to know is my school safe, is my classroom safe, am I safe in my neighborhood and we always reiterate yes, this is a very safe school and we are doing our very, very best that we can each day."

Parga said schools are starting to help students dealing with loss because grief and anger, as we've seen, can turn toxic when left untreated.

"Kids our coming to grief clubs in the schools and to The Solace Tree because a friend has died or they've had other losses in their lives, like divorce, incarcerated parents. Now they get to talk about it and that's them processing their grief. We are seeing it now, but I think in the next decade, we won't see it as much because kids are able to talk."

You can watch the entire interview on my weekend show Face the State.

The show airs Saturday at 3:30pm and Sunday at 6:30am and 4pm.

Written by Chris Ciarlo

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