For this article for ASCA School Counselor magazine, I had the privilege of interviewing school counselors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and from Myrtle Cooper Elementary in El Paso, Texas. Read the complete article.


Trauma comes to school in all shapes and sizes. It may stem from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as parental divorce or mental illness, from exposure to violence or substance abuse, or from a large-scale event with widespread impact such as a natural disaster or a mass shooting. No matter the source or scale, when trauma reaches a school building, school counselors are first responders.

On a Saturday in August 2019, a gunman opened fire in the Walmart at Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people and injuring 24 others. Virginia Bueno, a K–5 school counselor at Bill Sybert School, was at the mall that morning to meet her friend Belinda Calderon, a fellow El Paso school counselor from Myrtle Cooper Elementary School. Calderon had just pulled into the mall parking lot when the shooting started and wasn’t allowed to leave the area for several hours. Routed behind the Walmart, she saw injured people being evacuated on shopping carts while U.S. Army helicopters circled overhead. Bueno was in lockdown in a store inside the mall, using her experience with school safety drills to keep herself and other shoppers safe.

Come Monday, both would face tearful students, anxious parents and distressed teachers, while still dealing with their own direct experience of the situation. … Unlike in El Paso, where school counselors were able to reassure students and parents that school was still a safe place, those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Fla., had trauma come within their walls in February 2018. Seventeen students died, and 17 more were injured in that school shooting.

Download a pdf of the complete article