The Marysville School District has been receiving a lot of praise from the Freeman School District in the past week as it has helped the Freeman community deal with the aftermath of last Wednesday's deadly high school shooting. It was something Marysville dealt with three years ago.
Five students at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, including the shooter, were shot and killed in October 2014. Another student who was shot survived.
Following the shooting at Freeman that killed one student and wounded three others, the Marysville superintendent Dr. Becky Berg made the trip over to Eastern Washington assist in any way possible.
“A district only needs one superintendent at a time, so I just went over to be a colleague, to share lessons learned, to give advice, if asked,” Berg said. “We are all in a fraternity no one wants to be in. When a school shooting happens, and if there’s anything we can do to help a fellow district out and making it better for other kids, then we’re all in.”
Dr. Berg made a few suggestions right away, including that the school considered having a parent meeting. It’s the same suggestion she received after the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck.
“Someone told me we need to have a parent meeting right away, and I thought they were crazy,” Berg said. “We did have it right away, and that was the best thing we could have done. Because parents need to be with other parents. They need to ask questions. Kids need to be with other kids, so that was our first suggestion and Randy took us up on that.”
Berg also worked with the Freeman schools on delicately handling staff meetings at a time when staff members are going through trauma as well.
“As educators, our value system is to put the kids first. Our value system is to bring your best self to work, and if you are having troubles at home or troubles outside of work, you don’t let the kids see that. In this case, they need to take care of themselves. They need to do whatever it is to renew. Many of them will have PTSD. They need to get help for that. This is serious trauma,” Berg said. “We talked to them. 'It's OK if you cry. It's OK. You don’t have to fake it until you make it with your kids. You’ve all been through a horrific event. Your kids know you are human and vulnerable, but pay attention to self-care, in this situation don’t put yourself last.'”
She also had words for any parent who may feel more concern in this time, worrying that this type of incident can happen at any school.
“I wish I had something to help us be less fearful and less worried. What I bank on is our relationship with kids and that, the more the adults know the students in their lives, the more we have an advocate for every child in a school, the more we focus on a whole child’s education so that we have lots of activities and we have a well-rounded education. That’s what I bank on,” Berg said. “Sometimes people talk about gun control, and I have my own personal opinion about that or policy, and we could talk for years about that. But in the scope of what a school can do, it’s really build relationships and focus on each child.”
In addition to the superintendent reaching out to the Freeman community, the survivor of the Marysville shooting also had a message for them. Nate Hatch and his mother, Denise, released a statement showing support for all who are affected.
“Can you send our deepest condolences to the families of the Freeman High School shooting. Know we have been praying for them all, especially the students directly affected by the shooting and the ones that witnessed the horrible act,” the Hatch family wrote. “It brought so much back to us as we heard of this happening again but we’re praying hard for the students, staff, and families. No matter if you were at the school when it happened, it affects everyone in the community.
“Fear becomes part of your life, but we have been living by this small quote: ‘Faith over fear,” the Hatch family said. “So keep praying!”
Along with Hatch and Berg, several other Marysville community members reached out to Freeman including the student body advisor, the transportation department, and the high school football coach.