Mental health experts: communication crucial to help Belton High students recover from traumatic on-campus murder

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - Mental health experts are offering guidance about how parents of Belton High School students can help their children cope with the on-campus murder of one of their classmates on May 3.

Caysen Tyler Allison, 18, is accused of stabbing fellow classmate Joe Ramirez Jr. to death at Belton High School Tuesday morning.

As students were being dismissed early on Tuesday, many recounted witnessing the deadly stabbing.

Mental health experts say there is no doubt this is a collective trauma, especially, for a generation of students that have grown up seeing school shootings on the news.

“You know, even if the kids didn’t know that particular victim or the perpetrator, it’s still really traumatizing because it brings back this idea that school is not a safe place to be,” said Katie Chadwell, a child and adolescent therapist at the Klaras Center for Families.

She says Belton parents and staff at the school should expect to see some behavior changes in students in the coming days in response to the tragedy.

“For some kids, especially kids who knew either the perpetrator or the victim, you might see a drop in grades because they’re going to be a lot more fearful and it’s harder to learn,” Chadwell said, “You might notice kids being more snappy and having what we would call the worst attitude.”

Whether a student demonstrates these behavior changes or not, the experts say parents should open a line of communication to talk with their student, especially, as they are set to return to school on May 9th.

“First and foremost, ask how the teen is feeling about going back to school. Second, if the child says they are feeling afraid or anxious, then validate that and say it’s ok to feel afraid. Then third, continue checking in with them after the day to make sure they’re okay,” Chadwell said.

Belton ISD said it will have counseling teams at the Belton High School Library from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday. Students and staff seeking counseling are asked to enter the door from the front parking lot closest to the library. The district says bilingual services will also be available. The sessions are expected to last about 30 minutes each.

The district said since the stabbing, many local mental health providers have offered their services to the district. Belton ISD has compiled a list of those resources here: Tigers Care Resources.

The district also says it will provide counseling support for students and staff when school resumes on May 9th.

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