Parkland Students Begin School Six Months After Horrific Shooting

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Students returned to the scene of the deadly Valentine’s Day shooting where 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The first day of the new school year was bittersweet for the Parkland students returning to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday.

At least 3,000 students returned to begin the school year at the same school where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz used a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 to murder 17 students and faculty members on Feb. 14. The massacre prompted $6.5 million worth of changes in the school district’s security, such as armed guards, automatic locks, and more video surveillance.

Police were on the scene to help students feel safe on the first day of school, and the school will also be equipped with therapy dogs, counselors, and social workers to help the students.

There will be only one way to enter the school, and only students and school staff members wearing burgundy indentification badges around their necks will be allowed to enter school premises. Students will also undergo backpack checks as additional safety precautions.

The building where most of the killings happened is now surrounded by a 12-foot fence. Portable classrooms were set up to handle the overflow resulting from the closed building.

“It’s a bittersweet day,” said School Superintendent Robert Runcie. “It’s six months away from the tragedy when it feels like it happened just yesterday.”

While there have been significant changes, students said they still don’t feel safe.

Senior class president Jaclyn Corin spent the summer advocating for voter registration and gun control. She said that she doesn’t feel safe yet.

“Until we actually remove these weapons of war from our streets... we're not going to feel safe,” said Corin.

Student Anthony Borges was shot five times in the school by Cruz and is too afraid to return to the school.

“I don't feel safe because maybe another Nikolas Cruz [could be] there,” he said.

His father added that he won’t send his child back to the school until the school board has new leadership.

The elder Borges may get his wish. Five members of the Broward County School Board are being challenged on Aug. 28 by Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty, among others. Alhadeff and Petty each lost a child in the massacre.  

 While it is commendable that so many people are there to comfort the students as they make the transition into another school year, it is disconcerting that no meaningful gun reform has occurred since the shooting.

But with students like Corin advocating to get people to vote and reform gun laws, these students may just prompt real change. 

Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Reuters/Mary Beth Koeth

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