Reporting Lauren Leamanczyk
DANVERS (CBS) – Nearly a thousand parents flooded into the Danvers High School Fieldhouse Thursday night for a meeting aimed at answering their questions before their children return to classes on Friday.
Those questions involved student safety and how to help them cope. “I think a lot of us are at a loss for how we’re supposed to deal with it. What we’re supposed to do, what we’re not supposed to do,” said Debbie Mullaney, the parent of a student. “This changes their world. Nothing like this ever happened in this town, in this school.”
Joan Callahan arrived with a teddy bear and a poem to place by the growing memorial for Colleen Ritzer. Her son is in Philip Chism’s homeroom class. She said he is angry and confused. She wanted more information. “I want to know my son is safe at school,” she said.
Throughout the day about 300 students came for grief counseling according to school administrators. They hugged and cried outside. Many in shock at the loss of a beloved teacher and at the seeming lack of any warning signs.
Chism’s fellow soccer players say they never even heard him mention the teacher’s name. “Never gave any signs. Just a normal teenage kid,” said one of the varsity players.
When school resumes Friday, administrators are seeking a sense of normalcy, while also having plenty of support. Counselors and police officers will be on hand. Staff will be available to speak with any students having trouble.
Most of the building will be open, with one notable exception. The bathroom where Ritzer was attacked will remain blocked off, still a crime scene.
After a meeting with police, school officials and counselors, many parents said they felt more comfortable with their teenagers’ return to classes.
“They have therapists. They have police. There’s going to be a huge presence here. Our kids are going to be safe. Our kids are resilient and our families and community will get through this,” said the mother of a student as she walked home.
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