Lockdowns at UNC Chapel Hill lead to need for mental health support for Carrboro High students

Akilah Davis Image
Monday, September 25, 2023
UNC lockdowns impact students at nearby Carrboro High School
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Staff at Carrboro High proving mental health support to students and staff.

CARRBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- Two lockdowns at UNC Chapel Hill within the first few weeks of the semester have impacted a high school not far from the university.

On Wednesday, August 28, armed officers were seen swarming the campus in search of a graduate student later charged with murdering his adviser.

A few weeks later, on September 13, there was a gun scare inside the student union.

Both situations triggered a lockdown at Carrboro High School just three miles up the road. Shania Stockmans, a junior at the school was in ceramics class.

"The announcements came on and Dr. Thomas said we are going into secure mode," said Stockmans. "I was feeling just a little bit nervous. They didn't release if they were looking for someone or how close the person was to the school."

One month later those thoughts remain. Mental health specialist Dr. Ashley Freuler said the incident led to many needing extra support.

"Post lockdown we did see a number of students who needed to process what had happened. A lot of them had parents working at UNC or family friends at UNC," said Freuler.

She told ABC11 that school lockdowns can cause and even trigger PTSD. That's why she and other staffers work to equip students with ways to build resilience like in small groups.

"Any time after we experience something like that we put out something to the teachers so they can facilitate conversations around processing what happened," she said.

School district leaders admit while it has been a rocky start to the school year there have been lessons learned from the two lockdowns. There's already a drill planned for this week.

"That alerts the teachers. That alerts the students that they need to ensure the door is locked and take cover. Lock the door and make sure they are out of sight. If someone was to walk by they shouldn't see anyone in the classroom," said Carrboro High School Principal Helena Thomas.

Students like Stockmans feel prepared should another incident trigger a campus shutdown in the future. Although, there's a sad reality she lives with.

"I don't know if you can always be 100 percent. Things are so unexpected," she said.