Three months after 16-year-old Daniel Marsh was arrested and charged with the murders of Davis residents Claudia Maupin and Oliver “Chip” Northup, all students at Davis High School received counseling Thursday on dealing with the case and media coverage of court proceedings.
Marsh, who was a sophomore at the school last year — and previously attended Holmes Junior High School and the Davis School for Independent Study — has been a topic of discussion among Davis students since his arrest in June. Several dozen students have “liked” a “Free Dan Marsh” Facebook page and teens also have attended his pretrial proceedings in Woodland.
Last Friday’s preliminary hearing, at which chilling and often gruesome testimony was heard, was attended by a number of teens with more, unable to get seats in the courtroom, waiting out in the hall. Whether they were there for the victims or for Marsh, all were left to deal with the impact of detectives’ testimony that included a detailed and graphic accounting of Marsh’s alleged confession.
Coverage of Friday’s pretrial proceedings in The Enterprise and other media outlets prompted school district crisis counselor Jen McNeil to send an email Wednesday to all district parents and staff members explaining how the schools are responding to the reports.
Specifically, McNeil said, “Our response includes: helping staff cope with their own emotional reactions, providing direction and guidance about how to respond to student reactions to traumatic information, helping teachers manage classroom discussions, and finally, how to look out for students who may be vulnerable to self-injury or harm as a response to receiving traumatic information.”
Parents were referred to the school district’s website, www.djusd.net/crisis, for tips on how to talk to children and teens about traumatic information.
McNeil sent a second email Thursday to DHS parents, informing them that all students at the school would spend part of their fifth-period class hearing a message from the district.
“We are purposely sharing this information in classrooms (small group setting) and, although we want to acknowledge any emotional reactions, we intend to keep the discussion brief and focused on emotional well-being. We are doing are very best to be sensitive to all who may be involved,” McNeil said.
“Students will be given information about how to access counseling services tomorrow and for the future. We are encouraging every student to have a conversation with their parents about how they are feeling.”
One Davis High student said Thursday that students were told, “basically we should talk if we need to talk and that we are safe at school.”
The formal statement read to all students said:
“This weekend, the Enterprise and other news media sources published a recounting of the proceedings of a pretrial of a Davis teenager, Daniel Marsh.
“As a school community, we are all impacted to varying degrees by this information. Whether you knew the victims or the accused, or did not know anyone at all, the information shared with the community may cause you or someone you know to have a strong emotional reaction.
“The school staff cannot comment on confidential student information. We have to respect the privacy of those involved, and we do not want to contribute to speculation. But it is important that we take care of our emotions and each other. What does that mean?
“As a student, you might be feeling shocked, angry, sad or afraid. You may also feel protective of either the victims or the accused. You may have difficulty doing your regular routine. On the other hand, you may not be having any kind of strong emotional reaction. All of these possible reactions are understandable. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ feeling.
“How can you take care of yourself during this time?
“* Talk with your parents/guardians about how you are feeling. You are not alone.
“* Know that you are safe here at school.
“* Know that the adults here care about you and how you are feeling.
“* Be on the lookout for friends who might be having a really hard time coping and tell a trusted adult who they are.
“* Go to the counseling office if you want to talk with someone about your feelings.
“* Sometimes teens feel guilty, or responsible, when they hear traumatic information. If you are feeling this way, please talk to an adult, You are not responsible.”
Meanwhile, a message posted on the “Free Dan Marsh” Facebook page by the Davis student who created it said, “I’m sorry to say that the page will be closing in just under a week, it’s over, we lost, and Dan confessed.”
The page had been “liked” by 44 people, including many students from junior highs and high schools in the Davis school district.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy