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Kids Return To Carlsbad Campus After School Shooting

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Aired 10/11/10

School kids headed back to Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad on Monday. Three days ago an apparently crazed gunman opened fire on students during recess.

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Statement From Carlsbad Unified Superintendent

Statement From Carlsbad Unified Superintendent

Statement from John A. Roach, Ed.D., District Superintendent ...

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— School kids headed back to Kelly Elementary School in Carlsbad on Monday. Three days ago an apparently crazed gunman opened fire on students during recess.

School officials at Kelly have arranged a special schedule that includes a student picnic and storytime in classrooms. It's just some of the ways the school community is trying to emotionally and mentally cope with the ordeal.

On Friday, parents hugged and squeezed their kids tight three hours after police arrested Brendan O'Rourke. He's the lone gunman who allegedly walked onto Kelly Elementary grounds and fired a round of bullets. The bullets struck two little girls.

Caden Smith, a second grader, was playing handball when the man opened fire.

“I saw two people who got shot,” Smith said. “They went into the room I was in. (One of the girls) arm was covered in blood. All you could saw was red.”

It is a parent’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, no one was killed. John Frederick-Smith, Cadan’s dad, says it was hard not to overreact when he reunited with his son.

“My son saw the whole thing transpire. Goes to show you never let your kids out door without giving them a big kiss and a hug.”

It has been an emotionally difficult year for the school community. Kelly Elementary has been rocked by a series of allegations that link the campus to a number of cancer cases. Now, a lone shooter attempts to take young lives.

Caroline Garrett is a mom at Kelly. “Crazy begets crazy,” she said. “Unfortunately we were in the media so much last year. It doesn't surprise me that something like this happened.”

However, law enforcement officials say the shooter acted independently.

David Peters is a marriage and family therapist. He says now is not the time for parents to be jumping to conclusions based on fear.

He says the most important thing for parents to do is to control their own emotions first, since kids are highly perceptive and depend on parents for strength.

“My biggest fear for the public is the overreaction,” Peters said. “The shooting is over. Now we get to control what our action is. We couldn't control the shooing, but we can control ourselves.”

He says parents should always show a concern that equals their child’s concern.

Peters says kids should be encouraged to talk about or role-play the ordeal with family or friends if needed. Parents also need to be willing to talk about the shooting with their kids without overdoing it.

“They witnessed a horrific event so going back to the school campus will give them a feeling they are going to that scary place,” Peters said. “Parents can do a wonderful job by reassuring them .. everyone is going to be fine today.”

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network states most kids will overcome this stress in a week or less. But kids who were closer to the shooting might be more affected.

Others might complain of a stomachache or headache in the following weeks. Experts say that is symbolic of a child’s fear and anxiety more than anything else.

Experts say school officials also have to keep a close eye on the adults. Parents like Christina Narris say it's hard not to feel her sense of safety at the school is shattered.

“Why did he choose Kelly? Was there a reason he chose Kelly?,” Narris questioned. “I want to make sure there are no explosives, or that he was working with someone else.”

Carlsbad school officials say a team of crisis counselors will be at Kelly Elementary to help kids, teachers and parents get past the ordeal. They say those counselors will remain at Kelly for as long as they're needed.

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