Therapists, law enforcement welcome Hart District students back to school

Canyon High School students exit campus after their first day back following the Saugus shooting on Thursday. Cory Rubin/The Signal

While Saugus High School remained closed Monday after a fatal shooting on campus late last week, students at other district schools returned to class, with some expressing comfort from teachers and an increased law enforcement presence. 

Students across William S. Hart Union High School District schools were welcomed by teachers, therapists and Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies on their first day back after experiencing a lockdown Thursday morning and canceled classes Friday, following the shooting that left three dead and three wounded.

Just outside campuses were “extra (sheriff’s) patrols comprised of detectives and specialized unit personnel,” said Lt. Joseph Fender, who added that deputies were also at junior highs and elementary schools. “All the deputies reported back they had spent significant and constructive time with the children of those schools, ensuring they felt safe and secure following last week’s events. The students were very excited to see such a show of support from our deputies.”

Once in class, students and teachers held a dialogue to welcome a discussion as teachers were given scripts for them to read to their classes, according to Stephanie Cotcher, the district’s licensed clinical social worker.

“We want students to know that it’s safe to share their concerns,” she said Monday night at a presentation on how to heal from trauma at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Bouquet Canyon Road.  

And some students did feel safe, including Canyon High School student Rhyan Diaz, 16, who knew Gracie Anne Muehlberger — one of the two students who died. 

“I was a little iffy about today, but after all the positive attitude I’ve seen, it just kind of helped me,” he said. “Staff members and other students were there to comfort those with negative thoughts.”

Over at Valencia High School, Divya Biju, mother of 16-year-old Lavanya, said, “Today was scary, especially because they had so many threats and fake things like that, but what can you do? They have to return to school.” 

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