District still working through response to Sparks Middle School shooting

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District still working through response to Sparks Middle School shooting


A memorial honoring Michael Landsberry, the teacher shot at the Sparks Middle School shooting.

It's less than two months after the shooting at Sparks Middle School, and the Washoe County School District is still deliberating over how to best serve the students and teachers affected by the tragedy.

At Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Trustees, a team of councilors and administrators delivered an update on their work at the school, including a special intercession planned for the winter break for Sparks Middle school students and their siblings.

Chad Hicks, who's Area Superintendent for the district, said many of the students and some teachers have bounced back quickly.

"Others are not doing so well. There is still a handful of teachers who are hurting, and not just at school, but when they go grocery shopping."

Several of the trustees, including Dave Aiazzi, said they regret not paying enough attention to the staff in the immediate aftermath of the shooting

"I think we all thought they would bounce right back and that they are adults...from day one, we didn't concentrate enough on the teachers."

Aiazzi mentioned that several teachers have taken leave and some have asked for retirement since the incident.

In an emotional comment, President Barbara Clark said the district needs greater expertise in handling this situation, beyond an intercession and the daily counseling offered by staff. She said teachers are going to be carrying this experience for years to come.

"Not only will those teachers think everyday for the rest of their life, 'is this the day someone is going to come with a gun?' But the whole district is like that. It's a different culture now."

Clark says the district needs to "bring it up to the next level," look for outside experts and figure out how much this ongoing support will cost.

Superintendent Pedro Martinez pushed back. He said they're monitoring Sparks Middle students, but at the same time they need to let them continue with their work and the routine of school life. Down the road, he says, people will not make special allowances for them.

"Nobody is going to go and look at these children, and, in five years from now, UNR is not going to say, 'hey you are one of those children on October 21st at Sparks Middle. You don't have to do X, Y and Z to get into UNR.' "

Since the shooting, the district has been offering counseling and other mental health services for Sparks Middle students and their families. They also plan to keep track of many of them as they enter high school to ensure they do okay. In the coming months, they plan to administer mental health screenings at middle schools in the district, as well.