Grief Counselors Sent to Metro Schools Following Three Student’s Deaths

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- In two months, three metro school children have died; all younger than 15 years old.

Brody Middle School and Roosevelt High School are trying to cope with the loss of two of their own.

Josef Fuller, a 12-year-old Brody student, died Friday from the injuries he sustained after getting hit by a car on Thursday. 14-year-old Yore Jieng died on Saturday after being shot by a stray bullet on Monday.

Fuller marks the second death Brody has had to endure. 12-year-old Lea Phann died in a car accident back in September.

Des Moines Public Schools have sent grief counselors to both schools.

“When it's shocking or when it's very unexpected I think that creates different kinds of dynamics for young people and when there's maybe some unanswered questions that makes it more difficult,” said Social Services Coordinator Laura Fefchak.

Fefchak says in moments of grief students will react in different ways, and it's up to counselors to help students through each emotion.

“Sometimes we'll see students really teary and weepy, sometimes we'll see students completely quiet, sometimes we'll see students get really angry, and you know all of those responses are perfectly normal,” Fefchak said.

Parents and guardians at Brody say they are thankful that counselors are available.

“The grief counseling, he says it helps with kids, especially the ones that are closer to the ones who have been hurt, but all of them though, because some of the parents I'm sure don't know how to talk to kids about things,” said Grandmother Juanita Flores.

Fefchak says that it's important for parents to talk with their kids about the situation because it could still impact them, even if they didn't know the student personally.

“Perhaps they've had a recent loss in some other part of their life and so that can bring up a lot of those same feelings and emotions for them and that maybe can create a situation where they want to reach out and talk to someone,” she said.

Fefchak also says it’s important for staff to take advantage of the counselors.

“It's very painful to lose a student when you're a classroom teacher, and I don't know that any of us are very equipped to or prepared for that to happen,” she said.

Des Moines has around 30 grief counselors available at any time.