Almost a dozen school counselors were at Amberly Barnett’s school Monday to support her classmates as they grieve.
Barnett was in the sixth grade at Sand Rock School. She was reported missing and then her body was found Saturday. There are usually two school counselors at her school, but on the first day back since her alleged murder, there were 10.
Counselors from other schools and the child advocacy center came and more school resource officers were there to support the students and staff. The 800 students at Sand Rock School’s Pre-K through 12th grade were greeted by counselors as they arrived.
“Some of the kids came in crying right away and we were just there for them to hug them and to listen to them,” said Elementary Counselor Chelsey Thompson.
School counselors spoke to classes and with students one-on-one. Thompson says she expected a day noisy with crying.
“It was more of just a silence,” she said. “The halls were completely quiet and silent and it was more of just a feeling like no other. It’s normally loud and crazy in the mornings and you could hear a pin drop.”
Students are encouraged to talk about their feelings and some wrote letters to Amberly.
“Being at school is about more than learning what you need to for standards every day,” said Principal Ben East. “We’re here to help the kids and help them grow.”
Now they must teach them how to grieve, this time with something they say no one can prepare you for.
“You don’t have any words and as many times as I’ve rehearsed what I was gonna say when I was asked certain questions I just knew that only God helped me get through telling them what happened,” Thompson said. “And just letting them know that it’s normal having the feelings that they’re having right now and not to be ashamed of crying or feeling the way that they’re feeling because that’s actually a healthy part of the grieving process and we’re just gonna get through this together.”
Thompson says they’re focusing on remembering Amberly’s life, not how she died.
They’ll be assessing day by day how many extra counselors stay throughout the week. The principal says the school will always be there to support Amberly’s friends, family, and community.