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Michael David McElrath (Photo:

After the shooting death of 15-year-old Dylan McElrath over the weekend, Hamilton County Schools counselors made themselves available to students at Hixson High School on Monday.

"It was a tough day," school district spokesman Tim Hensley said, but added that the day went relatively well, given the circumstances.

Director of school counseling Patricia Russell said McElrath was a well-mannered, easygoing and extremely kind student.

"He was an honor student, so a very intelligent student, and just embraced by his school community," she said.

McElrath was shot and killed Saturday. His father, Michael David McElrath, has been charged in the slaying after admitting to the crime, allegedly telling deputies, "I did it, I did it. I'm so sorry. I shot my son. I don't know why."

"[Counselors] really want to rally around the school" during difficult times, Hensley said.

He said the school set up "safe rooms" for students and staff to go to if they needed a quiet moment or to talk to one of the four counselors who were on scene about the loss of one of their own.

"A safe room could be the counselor's office," Russell said. "Within the counselor's office there are going to be people and things in place to support students."

Counselors are able to show students strategies to help express any feelings they're having, she said.

Not as many counselors were on scene Tuesday, but Russell said they are always on call should a student or staff member need them, and counseling doesn't happen only in the counselor's office.

"Our teachers are prepared to support our students, as well as our administrators and supportive staff," she said.

While classes must go on, she said, administrators are sensitive to students' mental health and accommodating if time is needed.

A mental health class is also available to students at the more-than-900-student high school.

"They are classes that help students, not only understand some of the strong coping skills when it comes to that social and emotional development, but also knowing strategies and skills to help their friends," Russell said.

She said kids learn when to refer to individuals if they need support, but also how to help friends navigate through challenging times if needed.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.