Grief counselors available to help students cope with loss of classmates

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Grief counselors are on hand at Westside High School after a car accident over the weekend left two high school students dead and another injured.

Westside Consolidated School District superintendent Bryan Duffie said students will be able to talk to Westside school counselors from the elementary, middle and high schools and Mid-South Health Systems staff beginning Monday.


"It's okay to be upset," is the main message Westside High School principal Freddy Bowen wants students to keep in mind right now.


"There are so many rumors about the accident, what was taking place in the accident, and (administrators) just wanted to make sure at least we're on the same page with what took place, what funeral arrangements were being made," said Bowen.


In students' first day at school since the post-prom car accident that killed 17-year-old Gloria Taylor and 16-year-old Whitney Rogers, Bowen debriefed students and let them know where to find the eight grief counselors from available on campus.


"We dismissed them to the auditorium and counselors have been working with those individuals in small groups of kids," Principal Bowen said. "Since these kids were involved in band and choir, some of the counselors have been down at the band room and the choir where the kids feel most comfortable because that's their environment."


Bowen said administrators are letting students express their hurt in different ways. "Part of the healing process is being able to do things for the families, and I've had kids turn in poems that they've written, ideas of things that we possibly can do, and I'm going to go through those, and we'll do those things as we can."


Bowen said the road back to normalcy will be a long one, especially for Anthony Hunter, the 17-year-old lone survivor of the accident. Hunter was released from St. Bernard's Medical Center emergency room Saturday night.


"That's going to be another phase when he gets to that point of physically able to coming back to school. We'll probably have to integrate him back in using our counseling services to help him cope because those two girls were his best friends," said Principal Bowen.


Taylor, Rogers and Hunter were heading to a movie theater after prom traveling south on U.S. Highway 63 Saturday night when Taylor, who was driving, lost control of the vehicle as she tried to change lanes in heavy traffic. Arkansas State Police said the vehicle overturned and came to a rest upside down in the northbound lane. Police do not believe speeding or alcohol were factors in the accident.


Funeral arrangements have been set for Gloria Taylor and Whitney Rogers.  Whitney Rogers' funeral is Tuesday, April 3 at Emerson Memorial Chapel in Jonesboro at 10 a.m. She will be buried at Trinity Cemetery.


Gloria Taylor's funeral service is Thursday, April 5 at Emerson Memorial Chapel at 2 p.m. The burial will follow at Trinity Cemetery. Her visitation is Wednesday, April 4, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.


Gloria's family requests in lieu of flowers, send donation the Westside High School choir.  Donations for any of the family can be sent to Westside High School.


Westside High School

1630 Hwy 91 W

Jonesboro, AR 72404

 Phone: (870) 935-7501 


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