Injured Student ‘Stable’ After Mattoon High School Shooting

September 21, 2017
Mattoon Police putting up barricades in front of Mattoon High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Mattoon Police putting up barricades in front of Mattoon High School on Wednesday afternoon.

WEIU-TV

A male student opened fire inside a central Illinois high school cafeteria Wednesday, wounding one other student before being restrained by a teacher, according to police.

The shooting took place at Mattoon High School at about 11:30 a.m., police said. Mattoon Schools Superintendent Larry Lilly said at a press conference Wednesday evening that the injured student is “in good spirits” and “in stable condition.”

The shooter, a minor who has yet to be identified, is currently in police custody.

“We’re saddened that this event has happened, and we will provide counseling to our students in need,” Lilly said. “We appreciate the quick response of school staff and our first responders. Most important, we offer our thoughts and prayers to the injured student and all who are affected by this tragedy.”

A crowd of about 200 people, including local officials and clergy, gathered in a field near the high school in Mattoon to take part in a prayer vigil Wednesday night.

Penny Weaver, associate publisher and editor of the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier, told guest host of The 21st Show Brian Moline that the teacher who restrained the shooter has since been identified as Angela McQueen.

On Thursday, students resumed school activities “as normal as can be after an event like this,” though with an early dismissal and police presence, Weaver said.

Although unconfirmed by police, the Journal Gazette & Times-Courier is reporting that the shooter experienced bullying while in school.

“We do know that bullying was involved somehow in this incident,” Weaver said. “We’ve not confirmed that with police, but though other sources, we do know the student was bullied.”

Data compiled by Mass Shooting Tracker shows that there have been nearly 150 school shootings in the United States since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012. More than two dozen children and adult staff members were killed as a result of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting.

Karen Simms is a licensed therapist who specializes in helping communities that have gone through traumatic experiences. She’s the founder and owner of Champaign-based Meridian K Consulting & Coaching Services.

School shootings can be “extremely disruptive” to a student’s emotional health, Simms told The 21st Show, because students often view school as a safe haven where they’re protected from harm. When a tragedy occurs within that safe haven, the emotional trauma is often amplified, she said.  

“There’s sort of a bubble,” Simms said. “When there’s a shooting inside the school, there’s a bursting of that bubble.”

Between 15 and 20 percent of students who have witnessed or been a part of school shootings later display signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Simms. In many cases, she said, psychological trauma ends up lasting several years.

The students who experience school shootings firsthand are not the only ones affected by trauma, Simms said. It is important to remember that teachers and administrators are also affected, so too are indirect observers watching highlights of incidents via news media, she said.

“Trauma isn’t just what you experience directly,” Simms said. “Exposure [to news] can be traumatic for people.”