Saturday, 15 June 2024

Schools prepare to offer counseling in wake of murder case

LOWER LAKE – As children in the Konocti Unified School District head back to school today following spring break, school officials are preparing to deal with students' reactions and questions in the wake of a classmate's murder.

School was out for spring break on March 21 when Tessa and Kristen Walker were stabbed near their Hidden Valley Lake home.

Ten-year-old Tessa died later that same day at Redbud Community Hospital. Her 14-year-old sister is home and recovering, the family reported.

The two girls and another sibling were all students in the Konocti Unified School District, where Assistant Superintendent Cliff Lantz said counselors are preparing to offer support to students, some of whom may be confronting the news of the little girl's death for the first time on Monday.

Lantz said the district has a crisis intervention team – composed of school counselors and psychologists – that mobilizes in situations such as this one

“Whenever there is any kind of disaster or anything like this, that team automatically gets called and activated,” he explained.

The last time Lantz said he was involved in the team's activation related to a shooting event about a year ago.

Staff at all district schools will be ready to respond if children have questions about this current situation, he said.

However, he added, “The focus will be Lower Lake Elementary, which is where the little girl attended.”

There, he said, the principal, counselor, psychologist and the little girl's teacher “are all aware of the situation and prepared to deal with it,” he said.

However, many of the counseling team's members have been away, so there will need to be some additional planning and discussion when school reopens Monday as they find out the children's reaction to the news, Lantz explained. The team will then decide if they'll need extra help.

If they do need assistance, the county's Mental Health Department is prepared to respond, said Director Kristy Kelly.

“We follow their lead,” she said. “We make ourselves available.”

Kelly said she has as many as 10 staff members who are trained as responders in tragic situations such as this one.

Dr. Terence Rooney, Mental Health's deputy director for clinical services, is in charge of contacting the schools to let them know the county is ready to offer assistance, which he has done in this case, Kelly explained.

“It's part of our essential services to offer psychological support in crisis,” she said.

The last time Mental Health offered its assistance was in response to the death of a faculty member at a local college, Kelly said. Kelly's staff held a debriefing for the school's faculty.

Mental Health also has a critical incident stress debriefing process, said Kelly, which offers support to emergency personnel in particularly stressful situations.

Lantz said it sometimes takes children a while to begin dealing with issues of death and grief. “When the event occurs everyone kind of talks about it on a very superficial level, and then in a few weeks really start thinking about it.”

Perhaps an even more important issue, he said, is helping Tessa Walker's siblings return to school and their studies when they're ready, while minimizing their trauma.

The critical question to answer, said Lantz, is this one: “How do you protect them yet maintain their involvement and integration in school?”

That, he added, is the most difficult piece of the puzzle.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Upcoming Calendar

06.15.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.15.2024 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Middletown Art Center exhibit opening
Father's Day
06.16.2024 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
Middletown Days
06.16.2024 9:00 am - 11:30 am
Moose Lodge Father’s Day breakfast
06.18.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
06.19.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
06.22.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
06.22.2024 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Love of the Land Dinner

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.