Highland Park parade shooting: How Highland Park High School dealt with lingering trauma from the July 4th mass shooting

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) — The Fourth of July Highland Park shooting had a huge psychological impact, not just on those at the parade, but the whole community, including students.

Mark Rivera of ABC7 sat down with District 113 Superintendent Bruce Law and first-time district director of recovery, Jennifer Ginopolis, to talk about their new trauma-informed approach to learning this school year.

Law told ABC7 about how the district responded to the shootings the day it happened.

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“The first thing we do, we want to make sure all our students are safe. We have a student band at the parade. We have the football players at the parade,” Law said. “The next thing that happened was, I think, absolutely incredible. There was a very rapid conversation about the support we needed to provide.”

Law said they are working to make the school a place where people can receive that support.

“It's become a center of attention for the community. Lots of people come to Highland Park, either to connect with other people or to actually talk to someone who can help them deal with what's just happened,” Law said.

Ginopolis spoke of how a traumatic event changed how they viewed the approach to the school year, especially with students actually being at the parade and witnessing the violence and carnage.

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“Everyone is shaken. Everyone is impacted. So it has changed the whole way we go to school, the way we look at school, the way we are activated, the way we look at our curriculum. And, it really changed everything,” said Ginopolis. “In every building, we create trauma interventionists and the positions are assigned to work with students who come to our homes with trauma.”

Ginopolis explains that trauma is common among his students, and preparation is important.

‘How do we support each student who needs the highest level of support, when they are traumatized, whether from the Fourth of July, or isolated from the Fourth of July? We're not going to tease him, because we know we've learned that almost one in four students will come to our house with a trauma,” said Ginopolis.

Ginopolis also spoke about the best ways to approach traumatized students.

“There's a power to listen and hear people's stories. And that's how I lead and will advise, and indeed advise our staff to lead,” Ginopolis said. “The support we've been providing, while they are really reactive from this terrible event, they are really a proactive practice of being able to deal with trauma in our world in general.”

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Law said he hoped the country would take a more robust approach to solving the problem of gun violence.

“I just hope that, as a country, we will say that we will solve this problem, so that there is a generation of students who don't have to worry about this because they come to school every day, and their parents don't have to worry about this when they send students every day, because as a nation, we have solved this problem for every student and every school in the US,” Law said.