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A Mock Funeral Aims to Help Students Bury Their Pain

By the time the last student walked past the open casket, hundreds of notes were piled inside, bits of pain the mourners hoped to bury.

The casket was real, but the funeral was symbolic, staged at a west-side Atlanta high school surrounded by poverty. It began with gospel music blasting through the gym. A pastor preached redemption and self-worth. Grieving mothers remembered their teenage sons, whose real funerals were just last year.

The mock funeral in Atlanta is part of a broad movement that has taken hold in schools throughout the country. It aims to see students as people with social and emotional needs as well as academic goals, and to address life traumas that stand in their way.

The field has gained currency amid a backlash against testing and accountability and the relentless focus on reading and math.