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School social worker gives tips for parents & educators during a tragic week

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Peter Medlin
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Sabrina Peden has been a counselor at the Dolton School District for over 20 years. As for so many parents and educators, it’s been a painful week following the murder of 19 students and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

“I have an 8-year-old daughter who was walking past the TV one day and she saw the news and she was like, ‘Oh, my God, mom. If I was at that school, I would be dead.'" said Peden. "So, as a mom, I was crushed.”

As a social worker for students from kindergarten to 8th grade, she’s spent a lot of time checking in with students in the morning and throughout the day -- having younger kids touch a feeling chart and being honest with students and fellow teachers feeling overwhelmed.

“Their feelings are genuine. Their feelings are real," said Peden, "and it's okay to feel the hurt and the pain and the fear. There are so many mixed emotions that can come rushing in when a tragedy happens like this."

She says her younger students have thankfully been distracted by end-of-the-year activities and games, but she says her middle students absolutely understand the tragedy. She would also recommend parents monitor what their kids are watching this week, especially on social media.

Peden says to make sure students have trusted adults they can talk to and who will take them seriously when they say they’ve seen or heard something strange. And, she says, if an adult notices there’s something a little off or different with their student, don’t sweep it under the rug.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.