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FCPS Offers Support After Students' Deaths

Westfield High, Carson Middle school counselors in place for students grieving loss of two Herndon boys killed in a murder-suicide Tuesday.

UPDATE - 9/26, 6:30 p.m.: 

Principals at both Carson Middle School and Westfield High School have released new statements to families after police released the identity of the Peterson family on Wednesday afternoon. 

Their full statements are posted below: 

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Dear Carson Community,

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the death of a member of our school community, Chris Peterson, an eighth grade student. Matthew Peterson, a past Carson student who was a sophomore at Westfield, also lost his life in this tragic event.

A sudden loss like this can have an effect on students. For that reason, we hope that you will listen to your son or daughter as well as discuss with them their feelings and reactions to this tragedy. 

Crisis intervention is an essential part of support to healthy learning environments. We have implemented a plan for responding to this tragic event focused on helping our students get back to regular learning and everyday activities as soon as possible. We will try to maintain as normal a routine and structure as the situations allows, and we encourage you to do the same. We have a crisis response team in place to assist staff, students, and parents.  Special counseling services are being made available to students and will continue to be available throughout the week, if needed.

Please do not hesitate to call us if you have questions or information you would like to share.

We always say we are a Carson family, and it is important that we support one another during this difficult time.

There will be a candlelight vigil for the Peterson family tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Floris United Methodist Church. Carpooling is suggested due to limited parking.

 Augie Frattali

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Dear Bulldogs,

This afternoon, FCPD released the identity of the victims involved in the tragic events in Herndon that have been reported via multiple media sources since yesterday.

It is with sadness that I share with you that Westfield 10th grader, Matthew Peterson, was among the deceased discovered on the scene. Matthew was a very pleasant and personable young man who participated actively in wrestling and track at Westfield. Matthew had lots of friends and will always be remembered in a positive light by those who knew him. He will be missed and the Westfield family mourns his loss.

Our students were remarkable today. I commend them for their behavior, resilience, and empathy. I also wanted to recognize the efforts of the school counselors, teachers, administrators, support staff and Crisis Response Team for maintaining a keen focus on the emotional needs of our students during this difficult time of grief and sorrow. Support will remain available for students and staff as we continue to strike the delicate balance between grief and recovery. 

I’m including information that parents/guardians may find helpful as you deal with your own students at home. Please do not hesitate to contact your student’s school counselor if you are concerned about the manner in which your student has responded to the event. In addition, we were informed that there will be a candlelight vigil tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon.

Here are some guidelines for Parents/Guardians to consider Regarding the Death of a Child.

Your child may exhibit one or a number of possible reactions following this experience over the next several weeks. Reactions may include:

  1. Tearfulness
  2. Sleep problems
  3. Irritability
  4. Clingy behavior
  5. Somatic complaints such as: headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue.

If your child continues to demonstrate these reactions over an extended period of time or if your child’s reactions are extreme at any time, you are encouraged to contact your student’s school counselor, the school psychologist, or the school social worker.

How to help your child cope with grief

  1. Allow your child to talk about the death, express fears, cry, and be sad.
  2. Use the deceased person’s proper name and use correct terminology when talking about the death.  For example, say “dead” instead of “he’s passed on.”
  3. Explain your feelings to your child, especially if you are crying.  Parents/Guardians are role models and it’s normal for children to see your sadness and to share your feelings.

More useful information is also available at:

http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/Tips-Supporting-Children-Youth.aspx

Thanks to all who have expressed their genuine concern and condolences for the Peterson family and for your continued support of Westfield High School- Home of the Bulldogs. 

Sincerely,
Tim Thomas
Principal, Westfield HS

See other related stories:

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ORIGINAL STORY:

Fairfax County Public Schools are working to make sure students have the support they need after two classmates, Matthew and Christopher Peterson, were found dead in their home Tuesday. 

Matthew was a 10th grade student at Westfield High School in Chantilly; Christopher was an 8th grade student at Carson Middle School in the Herndon area. 

"Crisis response teams are in place to assist staff, students and parents at both schools," FCPS spokesman John Torre said. "Special counseling services are also being made available to students." 

On Wednesday, Westfield High School Principal Tim Thomas sent out a message to parents. A similar message was sent to Carson Middle School families, Torre said, and both principals will send out updates later today.

The message from Thomas appears unedited below.

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Dear Bulldogs,

I wanted to check in with you in light of the information that you received from me last evening regarding the tragic events at a home in Herndon.

All things considered, the school day is proceeding very well. School counselors are seeing students both individually and in groups of 2-3. The FCPS Crisis Response team is also providing support.

Multiple media trucks were here this morning but are now gone. Approximately 300-400 of our students gathered around the flag poles in an impressive display of unity and spirit.

Everyone reported to class at 7:20 a.m. and shortly thereafter, I made a PA announcement to acknowledge the information that has been shared in the media and to provide students (and staff) with information that would help them to cope with their feelings of sadness and grief. 

As I indicated last night, we have not yet received any official notification from the Fairfax County Police Department as to the identity of any victim. Nonetheless, I'm including information that parents/guardians may find helpful as you deal with your own students at home.

Please do not hesitate to contact your student's school counselor if you are concerned about the manner in which your student has responded to the event. In addition, we were informed that there will be a candlelight vigil tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon.

Here are some guidelines for Parents/Guardians to consider Regarding the Death of a Child.

Your child may exhibit one or a number of possible reactions following this experience over the next several weeks. Reactions may include:
• Tearfulness
• Sleep problems
• Irritability
• Clingy behavior
• Somatic complaints such as: headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue.

If your child continues to demonstrate these reactions over an extended period of time or if your child's reactions are extreme at any time, you are encouraged to contact your student's school counselor, the school psychologist, or the school social worker.

How to help your child cope with grief:
Allow your child to talk about the death, express fears, cry, and be sad. Use the deceased person's proper name and use correct terminology when talking about the death. For example, say "dead" instead of "he's passed on." Explain your feelings to your child, especially if you are crying. Parents/Guardians are role models and it's normal for children to see your sadness and to share your feelings.

More useful information is also available at:
http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/Tips-Supporting-Children-Youth.aspx

Thanks to everyone who has expressed their genuine concern and condolences for the family and for your support of Westfield High School. I will continue to keep you updated on the school's response to our students' needs and any additional information that becomes available.

Sincerely,
Tim Thomas
Principal
Westfield High School

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Foreverbusy September 28, 2012 at 12:42 AM
This is so sad & my prayers go out to the family. I will say ( not to offend) that their is so much tragedy related to Westfields Highschool. Why is it that sooooo many students have died that attend that school. It's CRAZY!!!

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