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Free Counseling Offered to NOVA Woodbridge Students After Shooting Scare

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By Jonathan Wilson

Classes will resume at Northern Virginia Community Colleges Woodbridge campus for the first time since a student reportedly fired a high powered rifle at a teacher there Tuesday.

Jessica Gilbert says she was in the classroom where 20-year-old Jason Hamilton reportedly shot at his teacher twice, missing both times.

She says she couldn't sleep the night after the shooting -- but she isn't sure whether she'll visit one of the counselors who will be on campus the next few days.

"Probably not," she says. "I'm not that type. I just need my time, my time to just cope with it."

The school is bringing in mental health providers from outside organizations.

NOVA has more than 50 counselors on staff to help the 72,000 students spread over its 6 campuses.

But Dr. Beth Harper, NOVA's associate Vice Principal for student services says those counselors normally help students with academic problems or minor social issues.

She says community college students in Virginia are referred to off-campus providers if they need professional therapy.

"We're part of a statewide community college system 23 colleges. It is the system policy that we will not provide mental health services," Harper says.

She says the school had not received previous reports of concerns about Hamilton.

Police believe Hamilton was motivated by unhappiness over grades.

Police say it appears Hamilton's rifle jammed as he was attempting to reload after two shots, preventing him from firing a third round.

He was not armed at the moment police confronted him in the building.

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