Austin-East parents share how they’re helping their kids cope with the death of one of their peers

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Austin-East parents and community leaders are sharing their concerns about recent gun violence in the community, as well as how they’re helping their children cope with the loss of one of their peers.

It could have been her son. That’s the thought going through Brandi Augustus’ mind days after the murder of a 16-year-old who attended the same school as her son.

“My baby is 15 years old and if he wasn’t virtual, what would that have looked like with him coming home because we only live about a block and a half away from the school,” Augustus said.

Breyauna Holloway has two children at the school and owns a business a few minutes down the road.

“You just learn to cope with it,” Holloway said.

Parents say in order to see change, the root of the problem has to be addressed.

“The problem in our community is gun violence. The solution is how we handle it or whatever or I guess the anecdote specifically right now, the band aid over the bullet hole is how do we handle this how do we address the trauma,” Augustus said.

Addressing gun violence in East Knoxville is exactly why community activist Lawrence Williams opened the Safe Haven Empowerment House — to keep people off the streets and out of trouble. But, he says his efforts to make his community a safer place can only go so far if he’s doing it alone.

“There is a lot of broken trust between the police and the community,” Williams said. “But we as the community in whole, we gotta step up. If you know something say something.”

As Austin-East students prepare to return to school next Monday, parents are using this week to help them cope.

“I definitely think closing school for the remainder of the week was an appropriate action. I know that the students need time to process it. The teachers need time to process it,” Holloway said. “We’ve been talking about it. I’m trying to make sure they are okay with going back to school, being on campus, that they’re comfortable walking around after school.”

The healing starts now, but parents know it’ll be a long road. In the meantime, they’re asking for patience with the police as they conduct their investigation, and grace for Austin-East teachers.

“Please do not place the blame on the staff at Austin East. They are doing everything they can to teach your children, console them and keep them safe,” Holloway said.

Austin-East will be moving to online learning for the remainder of this week. Knox County Schools says the decision was made in an effort to be sensitive to the concerns of families and staff who are grieving.

Austin-East students will return to the classroom on Monday, Feb. 22. In the meantime, counselors will be available at the school for any student who may want or need support.

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