KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Three days after the fifth Austin-East student was killed this year, students and parents are dealing with the trauma brought on by the repeated deaths.
Parents are concerned for their kids’ mental wellbeing, and students are losing their friends. Some tough conversations have had to be had at home.
“Everyone said 2020 was a horrible year, I mean 2021 has started out even worse,” said Corrie Shuler, an Austin-East parent. She has two children currently at the school and has another son that graduated from there.
Shuler is an Austin-East alum. Although she and her family do not live in East Knoxville, she says sending her kids to Austin-East was intentional. She says her kids love their school, but lately, it’s become hard for them to go.
“My daughter has been more, mom I don’t know if I want to go back to school,” Corrie said. “They should be planning prom, they should be planning their graduation, but now they’re planning funerals.”
Her son, Matham says he was friends with Stanley Freeman Jr.
“It was kind of sad to hear that one of my friends died because he’s one of my friends. I was really surprised that something happened near the school that killed someone,” Matham said.
“It’s hard because it not only puts this community in a bad light but the students that are at austin east, you know people think oh they’re thugs, they’re this, they’re that, they’re really not, they’re good kids,” Corrie said.
Matham says the hard part is the bad reputation his school has been receiving due to the violence nearby.
“It’s kind of annoying because they’re all like that school is terrible, that place is terrible for you and I feel the opposite. I love that place,” Matham said.
Corrie says she’s been trying to help her kids cope the best way she knows how, but she thinks the school needs permanent mental health counselors.
“They need help. These kids need help getting through this, this is hard for them,” Corrie said.
Austin-East students return to in-person learning Wednesday, April 21.