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Iron County schools are rallying around their kids following the Enoch tragedy

AP — Enoch shooting, Sharon Huntsman leaves flowers, Jan. 5,  2023
Sam Metz
Sharon Huntsman, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Cedar City, Utah, leaves flowers outside a home where eight family members were found dead in Enoch, Utah, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. Officials said Michael Haight, 42, took his own life after killing his wife, mother-in-law and the couple's five children.

The Iron County School District said the loss of an Enoch family — including five children found dead inside of their home on Jan. 4 — is striking a chord inside schools across the district.

Enoch City Police believe 42-year-old Michael Haight killed his wife, 40-year-old Tausha; his mother-in-law; and the couple’s five children. Each appeared to have gunshot wounds.

The three girls and two boys ranged in age from 4 to 17 and included 7-year-old twins.

Shauna Lund, communications and foundation coordinator for the district said four of its schools, where the victims attended, directly feel the impact of the tragedy.

"Many of the students that were probably closest to the family are not even attending schools. Their families may be choosing to have them stay at home," Lund said.

With emotions running high among students and faculty, Lund said the district has resources available for anyone needing grief counseling during this difficult time.

"We have sent out what we call our crisis intervention team, and that's made up of counselors and therapists who, you know, are trained in working with students and others in dealing with grief and loss."

The district has counselors and licensed social workers available as needed for each of its schools. However, in the wake of this tragedy at the four impacted schools, Lund said "we [are] focused on making sure at least a few people were there throughout the school day as that is where the most need would be."

Lund also said teachers are being asked to pay close attention to students who may be struggling, to listen to them, have conversations with them, and also help them to understand that it's OK to be saddened by this event and express that grief, even if it is not fully understood. Family therapy experts say children process grief differently and they may not always express things verbally.

“Noticing what your child is trying to tell you through behaviors or through physical symptoms, I think it is a really big part of being able to then help them,” said Morgan Oliphant, a clinical director and therapist at the statewide Family Haven Support Center.

"It's going to be different and allowing for that and being aware that it is going to be different, that's OK. Not trying to rush it, not trying to make yourself feel better already because there's nothing wrong with feeling emotions and they're hard emotions," she said.

Lund said healing in the Iron County School District may take some time, adding that grief counselors will continue to be available as needed.

Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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