Therapists at schools to offer support following fatal Cedar Rapids shooting

Published: May. 20, 2019 at 5:32 PM CDT
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After two teens were killed and two more were injured in a Cedar Rapids shooting early Saturday morning, school therapists are prepared to help students grieving the losses.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District said the two 18-year-olds who were killed, Matrell Johnson and Royal Abram, had either graduated or were about to graduate from Cedar Rapids schools.

This week, therapists from Tanager Place and Grant Wood AEA will be available to talk with students, teachers and staff from all Cedar Rapids high schools.

“Our world these days can be a scary place, and the closer it hits to home, I think the more real the uncertainty of our world becomes,” Tanager Clinician Supervisor Lindsey Swales said.

Swales said there’s no way to predict how someone might respond to what could be a traumatic situation, like this one.

“Some people may be experiencing fear. Some may be experiencing anger — a very wide range of responses,” she said.

On Monday morning, students at Washington High School held a walkout in response to the recent shootings and to protest gun violence.

Swales said actions like that can help students make sense of what’s happening.

“One thing parents can do is just help their child to find that meaning and purpose in these difficult things and just help them with that follow through,” she said.

No matter how they’re feeling, Swales says each therapist will try to create a safe space for every person to process what they’re going through.

“Just validating their emotions,” she said. “Letting everybody know that, whatever it is that you’re feeling, whatever it is that you’re experiencing, that that is OK.”

Swales said grief can be something that hits people at a later time, so people can still make appointments to talk with someone at Tanager even after schools let out on June 6, by calling 319-286-4503 or emailing

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