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South Eugene High adds counselors to help distressed students after second violent threat

A therapist sits and talks with a teenaged girl.
Andrey Lisakov
Immediately after a traumatic incident at school, students can have a range of responses from elevated stress to anxiety to confusion over what happened.

On Wednesday, South Eugene High School responded to the second bomb threat in a week with lockdown and evacuation. The next morning, the school activated its care and advocacy team to respond to any distress experienced by students.

After critical incidents like these, mental health professionals see a range of responses: elevated stress, anxiety, confusion.

Clinical psychologist Mike McCart is a senior research scientist with the Oregon Social Learning Center. He said symptoms are most pronounced in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. “And that’s particularly compounded when events happen repeatedly," McCart told KLCC. "If you have something traumatic that happens more than once in a short duration of time, you might see an even greater elevation of anxiety or distress.”

According to the Eugene Police Department, SEHS received a phone call with a bomb threat at 9:32 am Wednesday. Minutes later, another call was taken and the "person who sounded male" claimed to be "at the school in a bathroom with a shotgun and handgun."

The school was initially placed into lockdown. After initial clearing of the school building, the students and staff were evacuated. "An interior and exterior perimeter search was completed with no bomb or threat found," according to school officials.

This incident was the second time in a week that SEHS was locked down and evacuated after a telephoned threat of violence.

Police and bomb squad parked outside South Eugene High School during an evacuation on May 3, 2023.
Tiffany Eckert
Eugene Police and bomb squad responded to South Eugene High School on May 3, 2023 after a caller made a bomb threat. They were back at the school exactly one week later when more violent threats were made to the school.

Clinical Psychologist Mike McCart explained exposure to repeated trauma can cause a “numbness”—especially in adolescents. “Where they start minimizing its occurrence and more of a response of ‘well, you know this is my environment and these things happen,’” he said.

McCart said after a crisis, students are often most helped by their support networks, such as friends, family, and trusted school staff.

As a 4J partner, Oregon Social Learning Center offers counseling at South with a therapist on-site. HOOTS (Helping Out Our Teens in Schools) also provides on-site, integrated health care and tragedy response support at SEHS and other high schools in Lane County.

McCart added most 4J high schools have robust mental health and counseling resources offered at no cost to students.

In message to students and parents sent Thursday morning, SEHS administrators said additional counseling staff are on hand for students and another "care room" would be set up as needed. They added, "Although it [bomb threat] was a false alarm and there was no actual threat, it nonetheless feels traumatic, and we recognize its potential impact on our collective sense of wellbeing and mental health."

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
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