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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Support measures in place as Freeman students return to school

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 18, 2017

Freeman High School students will return to school Monday for the first time since violence erupted there last week.

There will be a counselor in every classroom in the school district, said Freeman School District Superintendent Randy Russell during a news conference Sunday.

Additionally, retired teachers will return to school to offer support and help. There will be opportunities for art therapy, facilitated discussions and other hands-on activities meant to help students process their emotions.

Russell encouraged parents to accompany their students to school and to remain at school as long as they like.

“I think the most difficult part, at least for (Monday), will be the initial part. Coming here, driving out, walking into the building,” he said. “We’re going to be there to get our arms around everybody.”

The second floor of the building, where the shooting occurred Wednesday, has been fixed and cleaned up. It looks like it did the very first day of school, Russell said.

“I’ve walked the second floor of the high school five times,” he said. “It wasn’t easy the first couple of times. It’s not going to be easy (Monday) for the students the first couple of times.”

On Wednesday, a 15-year-old student brought two firearms to school and opened fire, killing fellow student Sam Strahan. The shooter then shot and injured three other students.

As for any long-term changes in school security, Russell said that hasn’t been determined yet.

On Sunday, the high school was open to students and parents so they could get things from their lockers and mentally prepare for Monday.

“It was really a significant step in the healing process,” Russell said.

Russell said he had spoken with all five families directly involved in the shooting – both the victims’ and the accused shooter’s.

“We really had five families that were majorly impacted here, and we just need to remember that,” he said.

“My heart just sinks for these families,” he added.

Russell wouldn’t answer specific questions about the disciplinary history of the accused shooter, identified last week as Caleb Sharpe, citing federal privacy laws. On Friday, the Spokesman-Review reported that Wednesday was Sharpe’s first day back to school after being suspended for writing threatening notes.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said law enforcement did not know about the suspension until informed by a Spokesman-Review reporter. The next step in the investigation, he said, is to look into the events leading up to the shooting.

The school district has worked closely with the Sheriff’s Office in the past, Russell said. In fact, the district’s resource deputy, Ron Nye, was the first law enforcement officer on scene Wednesday.

“We’re constantly working with the Sheriff’s Department,” Russell said. “It’s an ongoing annual conversation around multiple things about school safety.”

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