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Opinion

What’s our story on school violence, NC?
 
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2018
by Mebane Rash, EducationNC

MATTHEWS – On the day of the school shooting, I arrived at Butler High School in Matthews. I have dreaded that moment ever since we launched EducationNC.

I drove to the school as soon as I heard about the shooting because we cannot do this work and only show up on the good days .Our job is to help the people across North Carolina understand how a school shooting impacts our students, our schools, our state and our future.

When I arrived at the school, the sun was shining down. My tears started as soon as I saw the "safe place" sign.

There were helicopters and law enforcement. The flag was at half-mast.

A 14-year-old anti-bullying advocate named Chloe-Olivia Gloston found me, and she sang her song, "It still hurts," a cappella in front of the school for us. More tears.

"I don't know what I am going to do every day when I see his seat empty. It's going to be so sad," said Hope Wilson, a 10th-grader.

"It's just crazy," another student said. "It is crazy."

"We've cried a lot," three of the students said together.

The students showed me a hat made to remember their classmate on this day, always.

I met Eric Davis, the chair of the State Board of Education, and he said, "We are more determined than ever to make our schools safe for every one of our students." More tears.

One of our students, 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen, died. At the vigil, the students behind me were incredulous. "He died over a high school fight," they said.

A student introduced as Bobby's girlfriend said she had known him since sixth grade. "Can we just tell him we love him so he knows?" she asked. In unison, those gathered for the vigil said, "We love you, Bobby." More tears.

Balloons were released. There were candles. Everyone was locked arm-in-arm. Students cried. People prayed. The pastor at the vigil said: "We will tell a story as a school, as a community, as a city that will inspire people to believe in greater."

What is our story, North Carolina? What is our story on the issue of gun violence in our schools, on the safety of our students? What is our greater?

I hope this day prompts change. I hope never to attend another vigil for a student lost to gun violence on school property in my state or any other state. During the vigil, we prayed and called out the name of our lost student as marker of love and life.

Going forward, we will continue to try and build a better world. Help me figure out what that looks like.

 

 

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