“Our community is at a loss right now. We are devastated. We’re still trying to process what happened on Tuesday. What should’ve been a routine afternoon dismissal at our school turned into a day that has shaken our close-knit community to its core.” ~Superintendent
ST. HELENA — St. Helena College and Career Academy students will return to school on Sept. 19 following a fatal shooting on Sept. 12 at the school.
St. Helena School District Superintendent Dr. Kelli Joseph gave an update during a news conference Thursday in the aftermath of the shooting.
The incident happened at around 3 p.m. As school was letting out, a 14-year-old gunman opened fire in a vehicle with four students in the football stadium parking lot.
A 15-year-old student was killed.
The alleged gunman was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated second-degree battery, and illegal possession of a firearm in a school zone.
“Our community is at a loss right now,” Joseph said Thursday. “We are devastated. We’re still trying to process what happened on Tuesday. What should’ve been a routine afternoon dismissal at our school turned into a day that has shaken our close-knit community to its core.”
Joseph said the faculty returned to campus Thursday and received grief counseling. Southeast Community Health Systems is providing support services for faculty and will be on-site when the students return on Sept. 19. The return date has been pushed from Friday, Sept. 15 to Tuesday, Sept. 19 now.
Joseph assured students they’ll be safe when they return. There will be an elevated police presence on campus, and she said the school is in the process of upgrading the school’s security cameras to the latest technology.
A recent grant also supplied the school with a system that tracks all visitors on the campus. Joseph said the school also uses a panic button system to alert if there is danger.
The school doesn’t have a resource officer, but a program called Community Action to Protect our Schools (CAPS) provides volunteers who help monitor the hallways to provide another layer of protection to the students, according to Joseph.
Authorities are still investigating the shooting
St. Helena Sheriff Nathaniel Williams and St. Helena Sheriff’s Office Chief of Operations Joe Chaney attended Thursday’s news conference.
Both reiterated that the case is still under investigation and intend to release more information in the next week or so.
Is bullying an issue?
Authorities believed bullying was a cause of the shooting. Joseph was asked Thursday how bullying will be addressed at the school moving forward.
“We have protocols in place,” she stated. “Bullying doesn’t just occur at school. Bullying can also occur within a community and with social media and all the other avenues in which kids can communicate with each other. A lot of times, schools are caught off guard, and I would say that could be a situation here. It happens a lot where our kids communicate via social media and have all these back-and-forth conversations, and all kinds of things are happening, and when they come to school, all of our employees are caught off guard.
“We do have protocols in place,” she added. “We take those protocols seriously and do what is necessary to ensure that our kids are safe on campus every day.”
The school’s football game scheduled for Friday was canceled. There will be a balloon release for the student who died Friday at 6 p.m. at the school’s stadium.